Two research symposiums to be held on campus Friday and Saturday


Daily Egyptian file photo

By Isabelle Rogers

SIU scientists and researchers will have a chance to showcase their work during two events held on campus this weekend — the Natural Sciences Student Research Symposium and the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Multidisciplinary Research Symposium on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

The natural science symposium will be held from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Guyon Auditorium, and the CASA symposium will take place from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. in the Transportation Education Center.

Karen Jo Johnson, co-chair of the CASA research committee, said these symposiums show how varied and broad the passion for research is on campus.


“For people who aren’t from SIU, it gives them a really good window into all the different exciting areas that the [faculty members and students] have involved their research in,” Johnson said. “Forums like these, where you can draw all these different content areas together, are really neat for the public to see.”

Though community access is important, these research symposiums have more importance to students, Matt Whiles, co-chair of the Natural Sciences Student Research Symposium, said.

“For many of the students, it is their first time to present, and that is exciting to see,” Whiles said. “Undergraduate students and new graduate students get to give their presentation in front of a familiar and fairly friendly audience.”

Johnson said pushing the importance of these symposiums can spur on greater research interests, which is their goal.

“As a research institution, students should get every opportunity to get to work on research and something other than the class assignments. This not only gives them an outlet for the research that they’re doing but maybe they hear something about research that is going with a different teacher or a different department that they didn’t even know about.”

Natural Sciences Student Research Symposium

Zoology assistant professor and co-chair of the Natural Sciences Student Research Symposium Robin Warne was struggling through the third year of his doctorate when he was assigned to produce a poster to present his research.


Warne said at that point he was questioning why he was even in school, but after becoming engrossed in his presentation and winning best poster at the research day, he was hooked.

After seeing firsthand how opportunities to further education can help encourage students, Warne and Whiles worked together as co-chairs to start the natural sciences symposium.

“[The symposium] provides a venue for students to show off their research to the community and to get a chance to get more comfortable with presenting research,” Warne said “… For me it is important to have that comfortable setting and friendly atmosphere for students. It had such a profound impact on me that I wanted the same opportunity for students.”

Both graduate and undergraduate students studying anthropology, forestry, geography, geology, microbiology, plant biology, plant and soil science and zoology all have the opportunity to share their research and what it means for the natural sciences, Warne said.

Oral presentations will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and poster presentations will run from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., with a break at noon for lunch, Warne said.

The symposium will also feature Nathan Muchhala as a keynote speaker at 4:30 p.m. Muchhala is an assistant professor of biology at University of Missouri and will be talking about the ecology of pollination systems, Warne said.

Whiles said they have two $500 travel awards for best graduate presentation and poster and one $250 undergraduate award for books and research supplies.

Zoology student Jared Bilak said he is presenting at the symposium for the first time and will be speaking about his work tracking the summer movements of common mudpuppies with radio telemetry.

“I really want to get my research out there and [the symposium] really made me push to start analyzing my data because [I’ve been working on this] since March,” Bilak said. “It’s a nice jump starter and gets you to see your own data and get your research out there, but it is also good to see what’s going on in other departments, what’s going on in the undergrad and what’s going on in your own department.”

Overall, Warne and Whiles said they both want students to gain experience and confidence  through both presenting and being an audience member.

“It gives [students] a venue and a friendly atmosphere to present their research, get feedback and hopefully gain confidence by doing this,” Warne said. “It can be a little daunting when you’re in a national or regional meeting with a bunch of people you don’t know. Hopefully, if anyone gets the experience I had, it gives them the boost to keep going, and that makes it worth it.”

College of Applied Sciences and Arts Multidisciplinary Research Symposium

This symposium is open to faculty, professionals and students from any discipline, university or professional organization, Jo Johnson said.

This symposium will feature oral presentations, panel discussions, student poster presentations and demonstrations.

The top research papers submitted to the symposium will be published in the next issue of the Journal of Applied Science and Arts, Jo Johnson said.

Co-chair and assistant professor of health care management Marcea Walter said the symposium, which is sponsored by different departments across SIU’s campus, is aimed toward many different areas of study.

“[The college of Applied Sciences and Arts] literally goes from the air to the ground. We have aviation to mortuary science,” Walter said. “The theme is very broad and we keep it broad so we can cater to everyone.”

Johnson said faculty tend to present orally and students tend to present posters.

“The thing that I enjoy the most is the posters from the students, because as a teacher, it’s really exciting to see what kind of research projects the students from around our college are into,” Johnson said. “To see them generate this poster as a presentation is pretty impressive. As a teacher, I like to see that our students are getting involved and research something outside of the day to day assignments outside of the classroom.”

Faculty and staff also get the chance to engage across departments in a way they might not have had before.

Both Johnson and Walter said the symposium provides immense opportunities for both students and faculty and shows what research can provide to the university.

“I enjoy working on the symposium,” Johnson said. “It’s really rewarding to see all our work come to fruition. All in all, it’s a good outlet for all the different faculty and the different departments.”

Staff writer Isabelle Rogers can be reached at or on Twitter @isabellearogers. 

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