NIU today | NIU undergraduates show off their research skills


The 2014 McKearn Fellows: (left to right) – Lexie Williams, Zachary Howard, Shekinah Bergmann, Rachel Lapidus and Kenneth Barnett.

The lazy days of summer? Think again.

For nearly 30 undergraduates on the NIU campus this summer, the season has provided opportunities to work alongside faculty and deepen research projects.

Shekinah Bergmann, for example, worked with a professor of mechanical engineering Behrooz Fallahi and several graduate students, designing and building a robot, nicknamed “Nightwing”.

It has six legs and can move perfectly parallel to the ground while stepping over obstacles, making it an ideal vehicle for uses such as landmine detection, remote video collection, or transporting dangerous liquids.

“It’s so amazing to imagine something that doesn’t exist, model it on a computer, and then bring it to life,” says the 19-year-old Sycamore student, who is simultaneously studying law and law. engineering. She hopes to become a patent attorney in the future.

Bergmann was among the summer research students who made presentations and displayed posters on their work at the Summer Research Symposium held today at Altgeld Hall.

Shekinah bergmann

Shekinah bergmann

Most of the students had participated in one of three specially targeted programs designed to fuel their interest in science and art: Research experience for undergraduates (REU), McKearn Summer Fellows and the Summer Research Opportunities Program. Each program lasts eight weeks and provides room and board on campus as well as significant allowances for participants.

Other students participated in the Undergraduate research assistant program, the Summer internships in science and technology To National Fermilab Accelerator Laboratory, the Specialized university scholarship program and National Science Foundation research funded by grants in the Horn lab on the campus.

Regardless of the program, all students have worked with NIU faculty on research on topics of importance to society, such as obesity, cancer treatment, grassland restoration, marine biology, water quality and energy storage.

“There are a lot of people who think that education is only for personal advancement”, NIU Provost Lisa Freeman told the symposium guests on Friday. But “the inventions and the ideas and the questions that our faculty asks. . . are questions that have not yet been answered. They are looking for answers that will advance knowledge and disciplines and that could potentially cure cancer or solve important environmental problems or understand aspects of human behavior that had not yet been resolved.

Bergmann, one of five McKearn Fellows this summer, found the research exciting, but she also learned from trial and error.

“This experience showed me what the invention process looks like, as well as how to deal with multiple failures along the way. No inventor has ever succeeded the first time. This is why this experience was so great, because I was given the opportunity to fail, but the tools to move forward and succeed, ”she said.

Ashley Rose Pales and Anthony Roberts

Ashley Rose Pales and Anthony Roberts

“If you want to see all that NIU has to offer,” she added, “get involved in the research.”

Anthony Roberts of Chicago, a junior pursuing a biomedical engineering degree, was equally passionate about the value of his experience.

As a member of the Summer Research Opportunities Program, Roberts worked alongside an electrical engineering professor Martin kocanda, studying ways to quickly identify bacteria using their distinct electrical responses.

“This experience meant a lot to me as I grew up not only as an academic and researcher, but as an individual as a whole,” said Roberts. “I had the opportunity to improve not only in the research process, but also in other essential skills, such as public speaking and technical writing. “

Maria Senf, 24 years old psychology major from Potsdam, Germany, wanted to deepen his scientific knowledge. She worked with the teacher Alecia santuzzi on a survey project on how workers interpret the behavior of supervisors when they are evaluated.

Maria Senf with NIU President Doug Baker and First Lady Dana Stover.

Maria Senf with NIU President Doug Baker and First Lady Dana Stover.

“I loved the idea of ​​spending eight whole weeks with other students from all over the United States and sharing different research experiences with each other,” she says. “I now feel ready to pursue graduate studies and expand my research interests on a larger scale. “

Senior Ashley Rose Pales of Oswego, who has a dual major in geology and environmental studies, also wanted to gain some research experience before applying for graduate studies. She discovered that the REU program had topics that interested her. After applying and accepting the program, she worked with Biological Sciences professor Neil blackstone investigate coral bleaching, a process that degrades or destroys healthy coral.

Pales is delighted to have worked on a project that could make a difference in the future.

The question “is important for the future implications regarding coral bleaching, climate change and potential ocean changes,” Pales said. “As global climate change occurs, mass bleaching events are becoming more frequent and coral bleaching is becoming a critical ecological and economic problem.

John McKearn

John McKearn

“Through this program, I have grown exponentially as a person, student and researcher,” Pales added, saying she “was tested through this experience in a way designed to do my best and push it even harder. “

It’s a sign of success, according to Julia Spears, assistant vice-president for Engaged learning.

“Participation in our intensive summer research programs challenges students to think big by exploring a specific research question in depth,” said Spears.

“Students develop a relationship with a faculty mentor, critically analyze complex issues, strengthen their communication skills, cultivate their ability to work in teams and apply disciplinary knowledge to global issues,” she said. added. “It’s a proven recipe for professional success for students. “


Paul N. Strickland

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