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Pictured, from left, are WIU alumna Hannah Drake with Killian Tracey, Nicole Walker, Quinn Kruel and Bethany Esterlen.
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WIU Chemistry Students Present Research at National ACS Conference

April 9, 2018

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MACOMB, IL – Six students from the Western Illinois University Department of Chemistry presented their research at the national American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in New Orleans recently.

The group was made up of two graduate and four undergraduate students, including Matthew Cash, a graduate student in chemistry from Hillside, IL; Amanda Hagen, a graduate student in chemistry from Lisle, IL; Quinn Kruel, a senior forensic chemistry and biology double major from Horicon, WI; Bethany Esterlen, a senior forensic chemistry major from Macomb; Nicole Walker, a senior forensic chemistry and foreign languages and cultures double major from Lake Zurich, IL; and Killian Tracey, a senior forensic chemistry major from Geneva, IL. The graduate students are mentored by Professor J.S. McConnell and the undergraduate students are mentored by Assistant Professor Brian Bellott.

Esterlen and Kruel each received a certificate for the research they presented in analytical chemistry.

Esterlen said attending the national conference was an "enlightening experience" and that presenting her research at a national conference will be beneficial to her future career aspirations.

"The trip also provided the opportunity to network with professionals in the world of chemistry, as well as the possibility to expand our knowledge of the different paths chemistry can take us," she said. "Aside from the educational benefits provided by attending the conference I was able to dive deep into the New Orleans culture by taking a city tour, where I got to experience a wide variety of things firsthand." 

Kruel presented her research at a poster session and attended several lectures, as well as being provided the opportunity to network with members of the scientific community from across the country.

"This conference was filled with the brightest chemists in the nation, and it was amazing to be able to hear about the studies that they have conducted or are currently conducting," said Kruel. "Attending this conference was beneficial to my career because I was able to see the different areas of chemistry and explore the research in each area to gain a better perspective of what I am interested in career-wise."

Cash said the conference was beneficial for a variety of reasons, including gaining insight that allowed him to refine his resume at the career fair and expo.

"The public expo also allowed me to explore advances on the instrumental side of the field to see what improvements were being made to make scientific instruments more accurate and efficient," said Cash. "The poster presentations were also very helpful as they allowed me to interact with other professionals in the field I would have otherwise not been able to interact with. It was also great practice for my thesis defense."

Walker said the research presentation experience offered her the chance to gather advice about how to move forward further with her project.
"I also attended a number of very interesting talks about some of the things that are currently being studied and implemented, including some very interesting talks about new methods of cancer detection and real-time health monitoring methods," she said. "In my free time, I was able to explore the city of New Orleans and experience some of their great food. I even got to spend some time in the famous World War II Museum. Overall, I had a great time and thought attending this conference was very beneficial."

Hagen said the conference offered her an opportunity to learn more about research in her field of study.

"I was able to present my thesis research at this conference, which provided helpful feedback to develop new research questions," said Hagen. "There were networking opportunities to talk to other researchers, as well future employers. Overall, attending the ACS-NO conference was a good learning experience."

For Tracey, attending the conference offered "unlimited options to learn, network and grow.

"Hundreds of talks were available throughout the day to explore deeper into your own interest in chemistry, learn about an unfamiliar field and network with top professionals in chemistry," said Tracey. "I learned the most from talking with current graduate students at other universities about the graduate school application process, choosing a mentor and life after graduate school. All this information will be super helpful come fall when I apply to, and visit, potential schools for my future."

Support to attend the conference was provided by WIU's Research Inspiring Student Excellence (RISE) program, as well as travel grants from the Women in Science program and grants from the College of Arts and Sciences Scholarly Activities program.

For more information about the WIU Department of Chemistry, visit

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