We are always proud to see Illinois among the elite institutions in the nation in terms of our research productivity. Going beyond sheer numbers, and measuring that productivity in terms of measurable impact, our research efforts have changed the medical technology landscape (MRI), set the stage for fiber optic communication (quantum well laser), exposed the real, societal implications of school bullying, and pioneered the field of disability research (bus lifts, curb cuts). These are just a few of the Illinois innovations and ideas that changed the world. As we navigate this new era for research universities, a critical component in our success will be our ability to increase and to broaden our research portfolio. When I say this, I mean building on the outstanding success we have seen in our impressive past.
It’s wonderful to be part of an institution that values and cultivates research opportunities. Whether a tenured professor building on a lifetime of work or a freshman student conducting his or her very first project, at Illinois everyone has the potential to make a difference. As a preeminent research university, we have a responsibility to integrate learning and discovery and innovation into our student experience in a seamless way. This is the educational framework that creates the scholars of the next generation. Our faculty, staff and students have advocated for enhancing access to undergraduate research opportunities and access and making it a campus priority.
We are committed to delivering on this responsibility. With the establishment of the Office of Undergraduate Research last year and the appointment of Professor Paul Diehl as our first director, we are already seeing results. And I would invite all of us in the campus community to see this progress in the most dynamic possible way this week.
The Undergraduate Research Symposium, taking place on Thursday (April 18) of this week in the Illini Union, is a great way to share student research with the campus. Now in its 6th year, the symposium continues to celebrate student scholarship. And this year should prove to be the best yet. And in a sign that our institutional efforts are already beginning to show results, the 2013 symposium features almost twice as many presentations, with about half of those presenters being freshmen, sophomores and juniors.
The symposium participants mirror the campus in terms of the depth and breadth of scholarship on display. This year’s event will feature presentations from more than 100 departments and academic units representing all 10 undergraduate academic colleges. In one single event, research on tick-borne pathogens will sit alongside the influence of domestic sarcasm. This year, varied projects investigate everything from culture to education to public health concerns and more. Another new aspect to the event will be the first research performances – an opportunity for students whose research is not suited to a poster or oral presentation. Topics range from a harp performance to interactive virtual labs. And just as we see novel collaborations among our faculty emerge from interdisciplinary professional events, I expect we will see some pretty amazing new undergraduate collaborations come from this event.
The Undergraduate Research Symposium is both a celebration of our students' achievements and an important annual milestone for us as a campus. We need to encourage our students in their research even more. We need to help them to understand how research allows students to be at the cutting edge of discovery and how this enriches their learning experiences at Illinois. But, most of all, we need to come together and recognize their work and their creativity.
For those intimately involved in research, they symposium is a creative exercise and a chance to see fresh ideas. It is a fascinating glimpse into the research conducted here every day – and as these men and women show us every year – a reminder that scholarship can begin the moment you step foot on our campus.
If you have some time during the day, I urge you to attend even for a few minutes. After all, the projects lined up in the Union on Thursday could be the worldwide revolutions of tomorrow.
You can see a full schedule for the symposium here.
Around the Campus:
Congratulations to the 2013 Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence Award recipients for 2013. We honor six outstanding individuals this Friday for their contributions to Illinois. This year’s winners are: Annie R. Abbott (Spanish, Italian and Portuguese), Cheelan Bo-Linn (Center for Teaching Excellence), William P. Kruidenier (Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences), Patricia Malik (Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services), Jane A. Scherer (U. of I. Extension), and Linda Tortorelli (The Autism Project).
Congratulations to Mara Wade (Germanic Languages and Literatures) and Ted Underwood (English) and Mireya Loza (Latina/Latino Studies) for winning new research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. More about the NEH grants can be found here and a complete list of recipients, including details about their research is here.
This coming Monday (April 22) is the day of our spring Town Hall meeting. Provost Adesida and I invite all of the campus community to join us at noon in the Beckman Auditorium to hear some of the strategic actions that are underway as a result of your planning and engagement in the Visioning Future Excellence Initiative. The meeting will last about an hour and we plan for a good portion of that time to be devoted to your questions.