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Stories about... Undergraduate STEM Outreach

POETS’ REU Exposes Undergrad Students to Electro-Thermal Systems Research

August 21, 2017

Ever notice how much heat your electronic devices give off? Four undergraduate students had an opportunity this summer to not only learn about this issue, but possibly help do something about it as part of the 10-week REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) sponsored by the POETS (Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems) Engineering Research Center.


At Blue Waters Institute, Students Use Parallel Computing, Super Computres, to Speed Up Research

June 28, 2017

With the goal of learning High-Performance Computing (HPC), 26 students were on campus from May 29th through June 9th as part of the 2017 Blue Waters Institute. While some were graduate students from the XSEDE project, 18 were undergraduate Blue Waters Interns. Not only did these interns spend two weeks learning about parallel computing, but over the next year, they will continue to use their newly acquired HPC skills—and the Blue Waters Super Computer—to analyze data for their Blue Waters research projects back at their home institutions.

ME370 Students Find End-of-the-Semester Robot Races a Fun Learning Experience

May 9, 2017

There was a lot riding on the 36 little robots navigating the ropes stretched across Boneyard Creek for ME 370's final competition. Held just north of the Engineering Building at noon on Wednesday, May 3rd, the contest drew a crowd of interested spectators who vicariously experienced the little robots' ups and downs, "oohing" and "ahing" during the spectacle. For the students, the contest not only motivated them to show off their engineering prowess; it got their competitive juices flowing as they sought to beat the socks off their opponents. And as an added incentive, teams whose robots beat the time set by Professor Socie's robot got to skip the upcoming final exam.

New ENG 198 Course Teaches Freshmen the Engineering Process, Teamwork, While Addressing Personal Mobility

November 9, 2016

The idea behind ENG 198, the new Engineering course being piloted in fall 2016, is to give freshmen a chance to discover what it’s like to be an engineer early on…with a few caveats. Working as part of an interdisciplinary team, students are to come up with an innovation of benefit to society in the area of personal mobility. Plus, despite the students being freshmen, course planners don't intend to smooth out the path for the students; they want the students to navigate some bumps in the road—just like real engineers do. The goal? For students to learn the engineering process, experience teamwork, and come up with an end product that—while not necessarily 100% successful—lets them experience having contributed to society.


Pakeltis Sisters Hope to Increase the Number of Women—Change the World Through Engineering

October 7, 2016

While the old Irving Berlin song, “Sisters, Sisters,” may not exactly be the theme song of the two Pakeltis sisters, a couple of lines fit Grace and Abby to a T. One is the last phrase of: "Two different faces, But in tight places, We think and we act as one." For instance, they’re both studying Engineering at Illinois. Grace, the oldest, is a senior in Materials Science Engineering (MatSE), while sophomore Abby is in Mechanical Science & Engineering (MechSE).

POETS REU Helps Illinois Undergrad Sabrina Yin Choose Her Career Path

August 22, 2016

Most REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) participants have an opportunity to conduct research for 8–10 weeks during the summer. Their experience then culminates in a poster session—the highlight of the summer—which gives the undergrad the chance to hone his or her skills while creating a research poster and reporting results. However, POETS REU participant Sabrina Yin, a rising junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Illinois, is doing more than just a couple of months worth of research in the summer. Yin began working in researcher Nenad Miljkovic’s Energy Transport Research Lab in March, participated in the REU this summer, and will continue her research in the lab this fall and beyond. “This research project that I’m working on will run for another two years approximately. So I’ll be staying in the lab to help out with the research,” she explains.


2016 Chemistry REU Offers Undergraduate Students a Glimpse of Grad Life

August 16, 2016

This summer at Illinois, five undergraduate students were chosen to be a part of the Chemistry REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program to get a glimpse of what research in graduate school looks like. Allison Fout, the PI for this REU, which currently is solely funded by 3M, said that out of 270 applicants, only five were chosen. According to Fout, applicants were selected based upon the following criteria: “Their grades, their letters of recommendation, their experience. (You could really gain experience by coming here)" she adds. Plus, she indicates that the final criteria was: "students that were interested in pursuing chemistry in the future. All of those things were part of what we were looking at.”


Undergrads Consider Nanotechnology Careers Thanks to nano@illinois REU

August 10, 2016

During the summer of 2016, ten undergraduate students learned about nanotechnology as part of the NSF-funded nano@illinois Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). While spending the summer performing research in the labs of some of Illinois’ premier researchers, the students not only learned a lot about the area in nanotechnology that they were studying; they learned what grad school is like and got some pointers on how to apply. Finally, many of them discovered that they liked research…a lot. In fact, some even decided that the area they researched over the summer was the area they wanted to concentrate on in the future.

Undergrads in Bioimaging REU Experience What Research, Graduate School Is Like

July 29, 2016

Ten undergraduate students from around the country participated in the NSF-funded Bioimaging Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Working alongside researchers in Illinois labs, they discovered the exciting world of bioimaging research, got a taste of what graduate school is like, and some might have discovered what they want to do for the rest of their lives.


Wendy Reyes Learns Life Skills in Bioimaging REU

July 29, 2016

When rising junior Wendy Reyes spent the summer doing research in Professor Michael Insana’s Ultrasonic Imaging Lab as part of the 2016 Bioimaging REU, she learned a lot.She learned some research skills: how to train software to recognize cancer in the images of breast tissue.


Bioimaging REU's Matt Kavanaugh Experiences Cancer Research at Illinois

July 29, 2016

Matt Kavanaugh had originally applied to Illinois as an undergraduate, but finances prevented him from coming here. So he matriculated to the University of Kansas, where the rising junior is majoring in Chemical Engineering with a concentration in Biomedical. However, when searching for something productive to do over the summer, he came across the NSF-funded Bioimaging Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Illinois.


Students Acquire High-Performance Computing Skills During Blue Waters’ Petascale Institute

June 20, 2016

NCSA (the National Center for Supercomputing Applications) is changing the millennial generation and the future of big data with the Petascale Insititute. During the two-week institute, students go from knowing fairly nothing about HPC (High-Performance Computing) language to knowing enough to complete amazing research projects using the Blue Waters supercomputer. From May 22nd to June 3rd, 19 Blue Waters interns (undergraduate students), 10 XSEDE scholars (both undergraduate and graduate students), and four additional undergraduate and graduate students participated in the institute


Sustainable Futures campersCGS's Summer Camps Teach STEM With a Global Flavor; Act as a Bridge to College

June 7, 2016

While one might not think of Illinois' Center for Global Studies (CGS) as a STEM unit, two of its three summer 2016 camps address STEM topics…from a global perspective. Sustainable Futures, from June 5–10, addressed a number of topics regarding sustainability. Global Health, in its first year, will address communicable diseases and epidemics. (The third, non-STEM camp is Intensive Arabic.) CGS Outreach Coordinator, Jeremie Smith, admits that while their camps are a lot of work, they’re valuable in a number of ways.


Bioengineering Undergrads Build Biobots in New BIOE 306 Course

December 16, 2015

Biobots. The word smacks of scientific breakthroughs in the distant future, or the subject matter of some futuristic, sci-fi movie. But Illinois researchers are currently building and studying biobots as part of their research in this emerging field. However, they're not the only ones. This past semester, Illinois' Bioengineering department piloted a brand new course, BIOE 306, BioFabrication Lab, that teaches undergraduate students how to build them too. Developed as part of the NSF-funded EBICS (Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems) Science and Technology Center, the course distilled down cutting-edge EBICS research and initiated eight Bioengineering juniors and seniors into the mysteries of building with biology. In addition, the idea for this class was developed in part due to the Illinois Innovation Prize, which emphasized the need to teach the next generation of engineers and scientists how to "build with biology."

Sohinee Oswal, a member of both the Innovation and Sustainability LLCs. No Longer Just for Sleeping, Illinois Residence Halls Provide Learning Via LLCs

November 13, 2015

It’s not your mother’s dorm any more. In fact, according to Alma Sealine, Director of University Housing, and Nathan Sanden, Assistant Director of Residential Life, in the university housing world, dorm is a four-letter word—and not just because of the number of letters it has.

“The 4-letter word dorm means that you only eat and sleep in that location,” explains Sealine, “whereas we like the terminology residence hall because it accounts for the living and learning that occurs, in addition to just sleeping there.” Thus, the name Living-Learning Communities, or LLCs.

Rumya Raghavannano@illinois REU Undergrads Experience Growth Via Nanotechnology Research

August 27, 2015

"I definitely think the best learning experiences are those that push you out of your comfort zone." – Rumya Raghavan

Eleven undergraduate students spent the summer working in the labs of some of Illinois' world-class researchers as part of the 10-week nano@illinois REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates). Not only did participants perform nanotechnology research, but they were challenged both professionally and personally as they learned new things about nanotechnology, about life in a research lab, and about themselves. As a result of their experience, some decided that graduate school might be in their future; some even considering careers in nanotechnology research.

nano@illinois REU participant Sahil Nayyar REU Undergrads Experience Research, What Graduate School Is Like

August 25, 2015

Twenty-six undergrads helped with cutting-edge research at Illinois this past summer as part of three NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs: the nano@illinois, EBICS, and Bioimaging REUs. In addition to the research experience itself, as a side benefit, participants got to find out what being a graduate student is like and possibly decide if research—particularly the area they were studying this summer—might be the career for them.

EBICS REU participant Solomon McBride2015 EBICS REU Introduces Undergrads to the World of Research, Graduate School

August 25, 2015

While performing cutting-edge research at Illinois this past summer as part of the NSF-funded EBICS (Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Celllular Systems) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), the five students gained more than a deeper understanding of the subject they were studying; they learned time management, networked with researchers, and experienced what it's like to be graduate students.

REU participant Casey TroccoliSummer Research Experience Exposes Undergrads to Bioimaging at Illinois

August 24, 2015

One goal of the NSF-funded Bioengineering REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) was that students who participated this summer would consider going to graduate school, and hopefully in bioimaging—and it appears they might have achieved that goal. The ten undergrads who participated in the REU not only performed cutting-edge bioimaging research; they also found out what grad school is like, and some even decided that the area they researched this summer might be the career for them—and that Illinois is the place to prepare for it.

XSEDE Scholar Wanda Moses, a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at Clemson UniversityPetascale Institute Introduces Students to High-Performance Computing

June 12, 2015

Most of the 34 students who attended the two-week Petascale Institute May 24th–June 5th are not in computer science; however, by the middle of the second week, they were glibly rattling off HPC (High Performance Computing) jargon, confidently referring to concepts most of us have either never heard of or have no idea what they actually are, like: OpenMP and MPI, vector accelerators, OpenACC, CUDA, debugging, optimization, and visualization. Their goal? To learn enough about parallel computing to be able to use Blue Waters or another supercomputer to analyze data for projects ranging from studying black holes, neutron stars, and galaxies, to natural language acquisition, visualization in cyber security, or protein folding using molecular dynamic simulations.

ME370's Drench-Your-Professor Competition Creates a Splash

June 9, 2015

Mechanical Engineering students who took ME370 in Spring 2015 were tasked with designing a couple of mechanisms that would allow them to dunk their professor. Giving students hands-on, practical experience, the course taught them how to work as a team to design something on CAD, then build that mechanism. Part of the process involved overcoming obstacles—students would design, unsuccessfully test, then have to go back to the drawing board and improve their product. And, oh, yes, as added motivation, they got to vie for the chance to pay their professor back for all of those long hours of study by dunking him or her in the dunking booth set up on the Quad.

A Blue Waters intern displays the tatoo she got during a tour of the Petascale facility. The message: Live free; code hardInterns Have an Up-Close-and-Personal Encounter With Blue Waters

June 24, 2014

Ever want to take a super-computer for a spin? Students from around the country who participate in the Blue Waters Student Internship Program recently got to do just that. After learning about parallel programming—the language of supercomputers—the interns being exposed to HPC (High-Performance Computing) got to run their program on the University of Illinois' Blue Waters, one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world and the fastest on a university campus.

MechSE Professor Sameh Tawfick glances up at the water balloons poised in the drenching booth's apparatus above him.ME 370's Unique "Drench Your Professor" Competition Hones Students' Design Skills

May 8, 2014

They came from far and wide that warm and sunny Wednesday afternoon in early May, until a crowd had assembled on Engineering Quad just outside the Mechanical Engineering Lab. They gathered there to experience the pageantry of the ME 370, Mechanical Design course's "Drench Your Professor" Competition, which pitted the course's Mechanical Engineering students and their machines against their professors.

Hannah LantChemistry REU Increases Likelihood That Students Choose STEM/Research Careers

August 30, 2013

Fourteen young researchers from all over the U.S. were on campus this summer participating in a 10-week Chemistry REU program (Research Experience for Undergraduates) funded by the National Science Foundation. These undergrads experienced firsthand what research in chemistry is like at a world-class university— and what being a grad student might be like.

EBICS REU undergrad Madeline TolishEBICS REU Students Experience Research on Biological Machines

August 29, 2013

Not too long ago, the five undergrad students who spent the summer in Illinois labs could only have encountered biological machines in one place—straight out of Sci-Fi. But as part of EBICS' (Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, these students got to conduct research in ground-breaking new areas like biological machines and biomedical engineering.

Two Illinois undergraduate engineering studentsIllinois To Participate in WitsOn—Online Class for Female STEM Undergrads

September 4, 2012

To help promote retention of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), Illinois will be participating in WitsOn (Women in Tech Share Online), an online class for female undergraduate STEM students. A joint project by Harvey Mudd College and Piazza, a course-management website...

Taiwanese trainees work in Illinois lab.B3 Summer Institute Provides Interdisciplinary Training

August 28, 2012

"So it's a good two-week, very intense, but very "get-your-feet-wet" sort of experience. The speaker list is phenomenal... You name the campus, and you've got all the big leagues from anywhere, from this campus and other campuses all over." Irfan Ahmad
Nicknamed B3SI by the planners, the two-week-long BioSensing BioActuation BioNanotechnology Summer Institute 2012, held at the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory (MNTL) from July 30–August 10, 2012, was intended to train participants at the intersection of biology and engineering and to foster networking with other researchers...

Power House team poses by the prototype of their power-generating stationary bicycle.Engineering's Summer Scholars Creates Small-Campus Feel for Freshmen

August 6, 2012

"Imagine coming to campus as a part of a group of twenty-two, and you have six RPAs and essentially have the resources of this university for 40,000 people, and you're here in the summer when it's nice and quiet and small." – Bruce Litchfield
Create a small-campus feel. This was the goal of Assistant Dean/Director Bruce Litchfield and IEFX Program Coordinator Michelle Adeoye...

Emily RabeSummer Research Experiences Steer Undergrads Toward STEM Careers

July 27, 2012

Instead of lounging by the pool this summer, a number of undergraduate students have been in Illinois labs—not only conducting research—but possibly figuring out what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
Participants in the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, these students are experiencing what real research is like. For many of them, this experience has also exposed them to what graduate school is like. For others...

textBioE Students Shine in Senior Design

June 4, 2012

After several years of learning principles and how to apply what they had learned to come up with practical solutions for real-life problems, Bioengineering students were given the opportunity to do just that.

Sponsored by industry, university faculty, area medical clinics, and/or the community, Bioengineering seniors participating in this capstone design course over the past academic year completed projects that ranged from diagnosing cancer to designing a prothsesis that will enable below-elbow amputees to swim.

ITI in first year of NSF grant as "Research Experiences for Undergraduates" (REU) Site
image of male student using laptop

October 15, 2009

The Information Trust Institute (ITI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has received a $357,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a “Research Experiences for Undergraduates” (REU) site.