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Donnel White, a science teacher at John M. Smyth Elementary School in Chicago, prepares to test the circuit he built as part of the CICSTEME365 workshop.

Top Stories

(Note: Web articles are organized in descending order from the most recent to older articles.)

Virtual Cena y Ciencias Provides Hispanic Role Models, Encourages Hands-on “Kitchen Science”—All Done in Spanish

November 12, 2020

Why does holding your nose when taking medicine make it not taste as bad? What is surface tension on liquids? What do scientists do in labs? What are crystals and how do they form?

Noted above are just some of the questions I-MRSEC’s Virtual Cena y Ciencias (CyC) hopes to answer during its Spanish-language, science outreach events for local Hispanic and dual-language-program school children. But, to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing mandates, CyC, scheduled for the first Monday of the month throughout the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, is being held online until further notice. Despite the change of venue, the COVID-19-friendly events, like their no-social-distancing-required predecessors, feature lectures and/or demonstrations followed by hands-on science—with a caveat. The "kitchen science" activities feature science that can be done with materials available in most homes. Plus, in addition to the exposure to science, the youngsters will experience it in Spanish, offered by Hispanic scientists who serve as role models.


Nobel Project Seeks to Pique Marginalized Students’ Interest in Computer Science

November 9, 2020

“Really, one of the goals of the Nobel Project is to provide young people with unprecedented access to the University of Illinois—the land grant mission...If our youth are to become computer scientists, to become the next Nobel Laureate, to become sociologists—whatever it is that their gifts and talents are urging them to be—we can support them in that effort.” — Ruby Mendenhall

According to statistics, very few faculty and industry professionals in Computer Science (CS) are from marginalized populations. For instance, only around 2% of employees in CS are Black; plus, percentages from marginalized groups are also low in medicine and other STEM fields. Seeking to address this issue is STEM Illinois’ Nobel Project, headed up by Dr. Ruby Mendenhall, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI MED), and an Associate Professor in African-American Studies in the Department of Sociology. The Project’s goals over the next two years are to hold workshops and other activities designed to get young people from marginalized groups interested in CS.


Alma the dog Students Experience Interdisciplinary Animal Research Via Alma’s Talking Dogs RSO

October 27, 2020

No, Alma’s Talking Dogs is not a circus act. It's actually an EOH exhibit, turned animal research project, turned RSO—probably the most uniquely named RSO on campus. But for Illinois students who are passionate about interdisciplinary research, it fills the bill, not only providing an opportunity to conduct research, but to collaborate with like-minded students across a variety of disciplines, as well as do public engagement. Plus, it enables members to get their periodic doggie fix.


Jemima PhilippeI-MRSEC Workshop Seeks to Help Researchers Improve Their Public Engagement

The program addresses the needs of scientists who are motivated to engage but lack the resources to develop their skills and create plans for action.” – Gemima Philippe

October 22, 2020

Intent on improving their scientific communication, particularly public engagement, 22 folks, mostly researchers from I-MRSEC (the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) participated in the Center's Science Communication and Public Engagement Fundamentals workshop on October 16, 2020. Presented by Gemima Philippe, a Public Engagement Communication Associate from the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology at the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), the online workshop addressed the importance of Science Communication, then tackled key areas participants should focus on in order to improve their own.  


Amy Wagoner JohnsonMechSE’s Amy Wagoner Johnson Teaches Grad Students How to Communicate Their Science

“Science isn’t finished until it’s communicated. The communication to wider audiences is part of the job of being a scientist, and so how you communicate is absolutely vital.” – Sir Mark Walport

October 12, 2020

The above assertion by Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government, is a favorite quote of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) Professor Amy Jaye Wagoner Johnson's. In fact, it might be considered the philosophy behind her ME598 AWJ Science Communication course. A while back, she decided that one aspect of graduate students’ education that was sadly lacking was communicating their research—both to colleagues, fellow engineers/scientists, and to Joe Blow (or Josephine), the average citizen on the street. So she began to explore science communication, augmenting her own knowledge and skills, then passing them on to her students. Today, the Science Communication aficionado teaches her course to grateful graduate students who count it a crossroads on their journey to more effectively communicating their work.


Charismatic Neotropical Poison FrogsIB Professor Eva Fischer Espouses Frogs—for Both Research and the K–12 Classroom

“We talk a lot about what we can do at the university level to increase diversity in STEM to reach other populations, etc. But I think if we don't worry about that until kids are 18 and we're at the university level, we've missed the boat. So I just think that we've got to start earlier.” — Eva Fischer

October 7, 2020

There’s a new Integrative Biology professor in town—Eva Fischer—who is sold on frogs. She’s not only setting up a lab in order to research frog behaviors, but she champions their use in the Frogger School Program she’s helped to design for use in K–12 classrooms.


Onur Tosun shows off his winning entry: I-MRSEC’s Virtual Coffee & Cookies Hour Encourages Collegial Communication Among Researchers; Bake-Your-Research Contest Fosters Fun!

October 6, 2020

A sign of the times? To encourage collegial collaboration and facilitate socialization among researchers, yet abide by COVID-19 social distancing mandates, on Friday, October 2, from 4:30–5:30, I-MRSEC (Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) held its first-ever virtual MRSEC Coffee and Cookies Hour. For the 16 or so participants hunkered down behind their computers at home (or their office) to video chat with colleagues, ostensibly, it was BYO coffee and cookies (C&C).


Carla Desi-Ann HunterLecture Series Highlights Women in Science at Illinois; Makes University Archives More Diverse

October 1, 2020

If you’re interested in innovative scientific research at Illinois and would like to find out more about the exceptional women who conduct it, sign up to attend the Women in Science Lecture Series via Zoom at noon on the second Tuesday of every month. Sponsored by the University Archives and funded by a grant from the Library Innovation Fund, the series is the brainchild of Bethany Anderson, an archivist who focuses on the history of science and technology on campus, and Kristen Allen Wilson, the coordinator of the Illinois Distributed Museum website. The new virtual lecture series was not only intended to highlight women in science at Illinois; its creators hope it, along with video records and other material which will be available via their websites, has a more lasting impact—to help diversify both Archives and Museum holdings and to provide a resource for educators. Thus, over the long-term, they hope to help increase the number of women choosing careers in STEM.


ISE Teaching Assistant Professor Molly GoldsteinISE’s Molly Goldstein: Passionate About Teaching Engineering Students Design

“My role is…being coach and helping students see what some of their strengths are, and what may be perceived as a weakness, and play into those so that they can play into their strengths. – Molly Hathaway Goldstein

September 30, 2020

Like many of today’s young people, when she was growing up, Molly Goldstein wanted to make a difference. Currently an Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering (ISE) Teaching Assistant Professor and Director of the Product Design Lab, Goldstein acknowledges, “I knew that I wanted to be in a career where I was making an impact and helping people. From my first immunization through high school, I thought that was through being a medical doctor.” While she didn’t end up being a doctor, along her journey, she discovered her real passion, and is now poised to make a difference in the lives of numerous engineering students, to help make them the best engineers possible, so they can achieve their own dreams.


DaRin Butz Scholar Andrea Perry, a senior with a dual major in Engineering Physics and Materials Science and Engineering (MatSE). (Image courtesy of Andrea Perry.) DaRin Butz Scholars Program Uses Research to Direct Engineering Undergraduate Women onto a STEM Career Trajectory

September 22, 2020

The goal of the Grainger College of Engineering’s DaRin Butz Foundation Research Scholars program is to encourage Illinois undergraduate women in engineering to pursue careers in science and engineering by immersing them in authentic research opportunities under some of Illinois’ premier researchers. The program, funded by the DaRin Butz Foundation since 2018, is under the umbrella of Grainger’s Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Research (ISUR) Program. The seven summer 2020 DaRin Butz scholars not only conducted research this past summer or during the 2020–21 academic year, but received professional development on how to present their research, then had opportunities to do so, such as in ISUR’s Fall 2020 Engineering Research Fair. Plus, the women had/are having a chance to network and through mentoring, discover what graduate school and/or careers in research might be like.


Tianshi Fu (left) helps a Uni High student doing one of the soft robotics hands-on activities during Agora Days. (Image courtesy of Holly Golecki.)Uni High Students Get Their Hands On Soft Robotics Courtesy of Holly Golecki

September 18, 2020

For several days this past February, during University Laboratory High School (Uni High) Agora Days, Uni High teacher David Bergandine and his engineering students set aside their textbooks while Bioengineering Teaching Assistant Professor Holly Golecki led them on a foray into an area she’s passionate about—soft robotics—a brand new area of study that’s creating quite a stir in the biomedical field


Undergraduate Women Conduct STEM Research Courtesy of Engineering’s Clare Boothe Luce Program

September 10, 2020

Eight undergraduate women who are committed to research and who dream of attending graduate school and possibly even pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) research are discovering what it might be like courtesy of the Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Research Scholars Program. Housed in Grainger Engineering’s Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Research (ISUR) Program, CBL provides scholarships that allow these women to experience cutting-edge research in chemistry, physics, mathematics, or engineering while being mentored by some of Illinois’ premier researchers.


WIE Orientation: Across Many Years, Ameliorations, It’s Still the Best Ticket in Town for Fostering Connections Among Engineering Women

August 31, 2020

Connections. This was the message 308 incoming female Engineering Freshmen received during the 18th WIE (Women in Engineering) Orientation, the fall 2020 semester kickoff designed to connect incoming freshmen with resources and foster relationships. The idea behind the August 19th and 20th event was to arm freshmen with the wisdom of upperclassmen, who had been in their shoes just a few short years ago; introduce them to both advisors and faculty in their departments to whom they could go for advice; and to foster relationship building among fellow freshmen in their departments and even in their courses.


POETS Young Scholars Find Sun Buckets Summer Research Experience Meaningful

August 27, 2020

Two Champaign Central High School students, Jasmine O’Connor and Lily Weaver, spent the summer socially distancing yet doing research that could make a difference for folks around the world. Part of the NSF-funded POETS (Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems) Engineering Research Center’s Young Scholars program, the two used Sun Buckets technology, which harnesses the power of the sun to use in cooking, to conduct research about drying a variety of common foods. In addition to learning a whole lot about how Sun Buckets work, they gained confidence, plus skills in problem solving and time management. The two also learned how to present research—then actually did so at POETS' virtual end-of-the summer final poster session. Plus, both gained a much clearer understanding of what careers they might be interested in pursuing in the future.


Delta Camp participants make a Delta sign with their hands. Virtual SIM Camp Assuages 8th through 12th Graders' Quarrantine-Related Blues Via Fun and Intriguing Math Activities

August 21, 2020

As with many disciplines that offer summer camps year-in, year-out on the Illinois campus, rather than not hold a camp due to COVID-19 quarrantine mandates, Mathematics chose to modify the program of its established summer camp for 8th–12th grade students to hold the 2020 Virtual Summer Illinois Math (SIM) Camp. The camp ran for two separate sessions: Camp Epsilon, which hosted around 35 rising 8th–10th graders (ages 12–15) from June 8th–12th, and Camp Delta, which worked with around 25 rising 10th–12th graders (ages 15–18) from June 22nd–26th. Unlike some camps which specifically target girls, SIM Camp was open to any students who fit the age and grade criteria, regardless of gender identity.


Ananya Cleetus 2020 Virtual Health Make-A-Thon Fosters Health Innovation

“Just the thought of maybe seeing my idea come to life and be used in the real world is surreal.” – Ariana Mizan, about her winning PillSafe Cap idea.

August 18, 2020

“Democratization of health innovation by creating a culture of innovation.” According to Irfan Ahmad, Health Maker Lab Executive Director and Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI MED) Assistant Dean for Research, this was the goal of the 2020 Virtual Health Make-A-Thon. Held via Zoom on Saturday, August 8th, the competition narrowed the 20 finalists down to ten winners. These would shortly receive their prize—a Maker Lab coin that would entitle the bearer to $10,000-worth of services from the University of Illinois’s Health Maker Lab (HML).


Angela Pak I-MRSEC’s Virtual REU Undergrads Gain Knowledge, Skills, and Insights into Their Future Careers

August 7, 2020

Although the COVID-19 pandemic precluded I-MRSEC (the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) from hosting the residential REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) intended for summer 2020–—undergraduate students physically conducting research in Illinois labs—the eleven undergrads from all across the U.S. who participated appeared to have benefitted immensely. What kind of impact did participating in the I-MRSEC REU’s virtual counterpart have on the undergrads? In addition to conducting cutting-edge research in one of Illinois’ labs—virtually—mentored by an I-MRSEC faculty member and/or a Ph.D or post-doc researcher, they presented their results at I-MRSEC's Undergraduate Symposium. Plus, students also gained other benefits from the REU: some became adept at using new software; others gained confidence; still others gained a clearer understanding of the direction they plan to go careerwise—including materials science research—all thanks to I-MRSEC’s Virtual REU.


Mary Cook NCSA Summer Research Exposes Undergrads to Open Source Software, Possible Future Careers

August 4, 2020

Exactly what is open source software? During the summer of 2020, thanks to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), four undergraduate students who participated in the REU INCLUSION (Incubating a New Community of Leaders Using Software, Inclusion, Innovation, Interdisciplinary and OpeN-Science) discovered just what open source software is: mostly free software whose source code is made publicly available so users can modify it to suit their needs. As part of this Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), the students also helped to develop and contribute to some primarily open-source software projects. However, this software-in-research training experience was not just about exploring open source software and programming; students also received professional development, learned about how to present research then actually did so, plus made some relationships and networked with Computer Science researchers. In addition, a fifth student, a returnee from last year's REU INCLUSION, also conducted research as a part of NCSA’s International Research Internship.


Kenny Bae CISTEME365 Virtual Institute Equips Teachers to Expose Underserved Students to STEM Via Extracurricular STEM Clubs

July 31, 2020

For five days during the period from July 20–30, CISTEME365 (Catalyzing Inclusive STEM Experiences All Year Round), a three-year, NSF-funded program in its second year, held its summer 2020 CISTEME365 Virtual Institute. Its goal? To equip educators to give students quality informal learning opportunities outside of the classroom. The idea was for teams from eight different schools to form or bolster already-existing clubs that pique the interest of under-represented students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), with the long-term goal of increasing the diversity in STEM.


Joanie Daye High Schoolers Discover “What It Takes” to Become Engineers During Grainger Engineering’s Summer 2020 Virtual Camp

July 17, 2020

While Illinois’ many STEM residential summer camps were cancelled this summer due to COVID-19, the many high schoolers who had signed up prior to the pandemic, plus a few minority students who were recruited, were still able to learn about the different engineering disciplines and what being an engineer might be like via Grainger College of Engineering’s “What It Takes” Virtual Summer Camp.


Jean-luc Doumont Principiae’s Jean-luc Doumont Teaches I-MRSEC Researchers How to Deliver Remote Presentations…Remotely

July 13, 2020

“Do what you can with what you have where you are.” “You must focus their attention where you want it to be.” “Everything you need—nothing you don’t.” “Invest time in your setup, not money in accessories.” These were some of the pithy pieces of advice shared by Principiae’s Jean-luc Doumont in a June 30th workshop sponsored by the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (I-MRSEC). In keeping with I-MRSEC’s commitment to improve scientific communication, the topic of their latest workshop was quite timely and extremely apropos: “Delivering Your Presentation Remotely.”.