College of Arts and Sciences


Research Inspiring Student Excellence (RISE)

RISE is a program within the College of Arts and Sciences that provides students with unique research and academic experiences to help them become tomorrow's leaders.

Core Areas

Inquiry-based Learning
  • Develop hands-on research projects with one of our faculty mentors
  • Develop skills in the field of science by participating in the writing of research proposals, grants or papers
  • Participate in our seminar programs and local and visiting speakers
Academic support and learning community
  • Apply for scholarships and internships
  • Take advantage of academic advising sessions
  • Get support for your classes at tutoring and resource centers
  • Learn more about our programs
  • Participate in RISE social events
Learning and Professional Development
  • Present your research at local, regional or national conferences
  • Learn how to be a leader in your community
  • Become a member of our student associations and clubs
  • Participate in our workshops and special courses

Get Involved

  • Recognition by the Department and the College
  • Special RISE scholarships and grant opportunities
  • Preparation for graduate and professional school
  • Networking opportunities for a successful career
To be a part of RISE you need to:
  • love and enjoy science!
  • have a 2.8 minimum GPA
  • work with a faculty member on a research project
  • present your research at Departmental Research Symposiums, WIU Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day or regional, national and international meetings
  • attend department seminars
  • attend RISE meetings once a month


Dr. Brian Bellott, RISE Coordinator and Department of Chemistry Coordinator

Office: Currens Hall 332B
Phone: (309) 298-1760

Dr. Richard O. Musser, Department of Biological Sciences Coordinator

Office: Waggoner Hall 358
Phone: (309) 298-1096

Dr. Saisudha B. Mallur, Department of Physics Coordinator

Office: Currens Hall 316
Phone: (309) 298-1375


P. James Nielsen

The P. James Nielsen Scholarship was established in January 2001 in honor of Dr. P. James Nielsen, former professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Western Illinois University. Dr. Nielsen joined the faculty in 1968 and taught students interested in pursuing careers in the sciences and medical profession for more than 35 years.

During his tenure, Dr. Nielsen taught freshman Biology, Protozoology, Animal Physiology, Human Physiology, Anatomy and Physiology, Physiological Response to Drugs, the Biology of Aging, Introduction to Health Careers and Cell Physiology. His former students characterized him as tough, fair and thought provoking. He also served as the pre-health professions advisor for more than 33 years at WIU. During this time, more than 250 students completed study in medical schools, 100 in dental schools, 50 in optometry schools and 50 in veterinary medicine. In addition, 25 graduate students completed their master's research and 26 undergraduates completed their honors research in his laboratory.

Frank Rodeffer

Frank Rodeffer entered WIU in the fall of 1957 as a Physics major in the School of Education. His initial plan was to eventually teach high school Physics and Science. He belonged to and participated in the Physics Club. While taking the requisite courses for his degree, his specific science interests became more narrowly defined to the radio and electronics aspects of Physics. Frank graduated in 1961 with a BS degree in Education/Physics. He had an illustrious career in the United States Air Force working with the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After retiring from the USAF, he worked in the private sector with Northrup Grumman.

Frank has been a generous supporter of WIU and, specifically, with the Physics Department. He shared these thoughts on why he supports the Physics Department:

"In talking to various Physics students over the past few years, I have found all of them to be intelligent, bright and enthusiastic about their academic work. I firmly believe we need to provide them with adequate, if not the best, laboratory equipment and devices to further encourage them.

The Physics Department is staffed with superb professors who also have the highest enthusiasm for their work. In talking with them, I believe they work very hard to see that their students achieve a thorough understanding of the subject matter. I am particularly impressed by the amount and quality of "hand on" experiences they provide the students. Hence, we need to do the best we can to ensure adequate and modern laboratory equipment is available to provide the best environment we can.

Their leader, Dr. Boley, shares the enthusiasm and, I believe, is well connected with his staff and, most importantly, with his students. I sometimes believe he fits the military axiom: "there they go and I must hurry and catch them for I am their leader".

I feel very strongly that I owe some "give back" to WIU for providing me with the academic learning and leadership opportunities I had during my relative short 5 years with WIU. As I have often said, my life and career choices were especially influenced and made possible by these opportunities."

Margaret W. Wong and Cecilia Wong

Two generous alumni have created four awards to support the RISE Program:

Margaret W. Wong ('73) and her sister Cecilia Wong ('73), were born in Hong Kong. They moved to the United States in 1969. Overcoming the language and cultural barriers, they both attended WIU to study biology and foreign languages. Margaret chose law school after graduating, and Cecilia acquired her Master's degree in Comparative Literature and a Master's in Business Administration. Margaret founded Margaret W. Wong & Associates with one desk and no secretary. She specialized in immigration law. Her practice now includes ten attorneys and 35 other staff members with offices in seven major cities in the United States. She has helped thousands of people coming to the United States to become permanent residents, advance their educations, work and pursue opportunities. She has won numerous awards and recognition for her work as an immigration attorney. Among those are the highly coveted Ellis Island Medal of Honor in May 1998, "Super Lawyer", "Best Lawyers in America", Life Member of the Sixth Circuit and Eighth Judicial District of Ohio, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Trailblazer Award and was the College of Arts and Science's Distinguished Alumna in 2014. Cecilia has worked alongside her sister for many years managing the firm's finances. They both exemplify the qualities many Americans admire: a strong work ethic, an entrepreneur's drive, resourcefulness and a compassion for those in need.