University News

In the front row, from left, are Isabel Navas Rodriguez, Elizabeth Orwig and Giselle Marie Sanchez Diaz. In the back row, from left, are Courtney Norris, Alec Terrile, Drew Hecox, Nathaniel Bloom and Centennial Honors College Dean Lorette Oden. Not pictured are João Pedro Maciel Motta Rocha, Alice Müller and Maria Fernanda Rodriguez Hurtado.
[Download Print-Quality Image]

Undergraduate Research Day Winners Announced

April 21, 2023

Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL -- The Centennial Honors College at Western Illinois University has announced the winners of the 20th annual Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day Performance, Podium and Poster Awards Competitions.

Undergraduate Research Day was held Wednesday April 19 and 14 majors were represented by 78 students across the performance, podium and poster competitions.

The distinguished alumni keynote address, "Undergraduate Research-The Joy of the Journey," was delivered by WIU Physics Professor Mark Boley, a 1987 and 1989 WIU graduate, with bachelor's and master's degrees in Physics.

Performance Competition Results
First Place: João Pedro Maciel Motta Rocha, a senior music major, of Brazil; Alice Müller, a senior music major, of Romania; Gisselle Marie Sanchez Diaz, a senior music major, of the Dominican Republic; and Maria Fernanda Rodriguez Hurtado, a senior music major, of Charlotte, NC; with WIU Music Professor Istvan Szabo - "Jessie Montgomery: The Importance of Underrepresented Composers in Contemporary Music."

Podium Competition Results
First Place: Elizabeth Orwig
, a senior Special Education – Learning Behavior Specialist major of Ohio, IL, with College of Education and Human Services Assistant Dean Eric Sheffield and Associate Professor of Education Barry Birnbaum - "The Crisis of the Illinois Educator Shortage: A Thematic Discourse Analysis of Superintendent Insights."

Second Place: Courtney Norris, a senior Psychology major, of Colchester, IL, with Psychology Professor Kristine Kelly -"Is the Future Too Bright? Loneliness, Belonging, and Unrealistic Optimism."

Third Place: Nathaniel Bloom, a sophomore Psychology major, of Darien, IL, with Psychology Professor Kristine Kelly -"Optimist or Pessimist: An Analysis of Personality Difficulties."

Poster Competition Results
First Place: Isabel Navas Rodriguez
, a junior Chemistry major, of Madrid, Spain, with Physics Professor P.K. Babu - "Optical Band Gap and Refractive Index Variation in Lead-Bismuth Borate Glasses."

Second Place: Drew Hecox, a senior Physics major, of Abingdon, IL, with Physics Professor Esteban Araya - "Long Term Variability of Methanol Masers in the Orion Nebula."

Third Place: Alec Terrile, a senior Geology major, of Chicago, IL, with EAGIS Professor Leslie Melim - "Silicification of trilobites & brachiopods and biofilm from multiple locations: Evidence of microbial involvement in all silicified fossils."

The winning abstracts can be found at

Posted By: University Communications (
Office of University Communications & Marketing