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Senior physics major, Nicole Szabo (Springfield, IL) presented her research in the Physical Sciences Library this October
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REU and RISE Programs: Providing Students with Prestigious and Competitive Research and Academic Experiences

November 6, 2015

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MACOMB, IL - Western Illinois University students in the College of Arts and Sciences are given the opportunity to complete research and gain experience through prestigious and funded Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) programs for essentially no cost. The students are part of the Research Inspiring Student Excellence program (WIU@RISE).

REU is a program funded by the U.S. government to involve undergraduate college students in research. Students can travel to different universities and receive a paid internship to work with a faculty member during the summer.

WIU has its own program mentoring students in research called RISE@WIU, which allows students who are interested in research to meet and talk with other researchers near Macomb and visiting scientists to learn about REU programs and other opportunities for research, professional development and academic support. RISE@WIU also prepares students to be more competitive to receive these types of awards.

Senior biology major Eliese Potocek (Beach Park, IL) participated in the REU program at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas over the Summer 2015 semester.

Potocek studied Shigella, a pathogenic bacteria that causes dysentery in humans, with other student researchers from the department of life science at the University of Nevada.

"Participating in the REU program proved to me that I enjoy doing research. I want to go to graduate school to continue a career in research. I also feel much more comfortable in a lab setting after this experience," said Potocek.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) makes participating in research at other universities possible for thousands of college students by providing money so the universities can pay for students to visit and complete research hours.

"I had known about the REU program for a few years and applied to participate in research through biology departments at a variety of schools. With the NSF financial support, the opportunity was essentially free for me," said Potocek. "Since the REU program at University of Nevada is supported by the NSF, my plane ticket, housing and meals were all paid for. In return, I worked 30-40 hours each week for 10 weeks on research with faculty."

Nicole Szabo, a senior physics major (Springfield, IL) had the opportunity to present her research at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Szabo is a member of the RISE@WIU and researches regularly with physics professors and research assistants.

Szabo studied The "Effect of Manganese and Nickel Ions on the Optical Band Gap of Bismuth Borate Glasses."

With the research results she obtained, Szabo presented at a conference for women in the physical sciences at the University of Nebraska. She got to meet people from other states and countries and share findings with others studying physics.

"I gained experience on how to read and break apart literature and how to discuss my research through presentations," said Szabo.

Like Potocek, Szabo did not have to pay for a hotel, travel expenses or food during the conference because of the NSF grant.

While Szabo presented at the University of Nebraska she also obtained information about the graduate program at the university, which she is interested in.

"These funded opportunities by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and National Institute of Health are very prestigious and we are very proud that our RISE@WIU program is preparing our students to receive these types of awards. Every year we see more WIU students receiving these competitive awards," said RISE@WIU Coordinator Andrea Porras-Alfaro.

The RISE@WIU program is currently available in the science departments such as physics, biology, geology and chemistry

Visit for more information about the RISE@WIU program and student opportunities.

Students who are interested in getting involved with either program should contact Andrea Porras-Alfaro at

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Office of University Communications & Marketing