University News

WIU Undergraduate Research Day April 20

April 18, 2011

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MACOMB, IL – Research and creative works by Western Illinois University students will be showcased during the annual Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day (URD) Wednesday, April 20 in the University Union.

Sponsored by Western's Centennial Honors College, the URD will include student poster and podium presentations of research and performances of creative works. The top three senior projects will be announced Friday, April 22. Complete information, including research topics and creative works, is online at

New this year, Western's School of Graduate Studies will have information tables in the Capitol Rooms lobby from 9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

The Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day will begin with an 11-11:30 a.m. opening session featuring alumna Katie Reiss (pronounced Rees with a long "e"), who is a master's degree candidate in marine biology at the College of Charleston (SC), currently completing her thesis. Her research examines the concentrations of hydroxylated organic contaminants in sharks from the southeast coast of the U.S. The project is funded through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and she does most of her work at the Hollings Marine Lab on the Fort Johnson campus, with trips along the coast for sample collection through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. In the future, Reiss plans to either teach or continue on to get her Ph.D.

Reiss, who was mentored in research at Western Illinois by Associate Professor of Biology Matthew Bonnan, was one of 10 students selected in Summer 2006 to participate in the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program at Mote Marine Laboratory (Sarasota, FL). She was a member of the Centennial Honors College at Western, and worked on her honors thesis examining shape changes in shark tails throughout their life. This project, along with two grants from WIU's College of Arts and Sciences and one grant from the Honors Council of the Illinois Region for Honors Research, allowed her to travel to Chicago's Field Museum and to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. to measure sharks for her study. Reiss' study was accepted, and she made an oral presentation at the 87th annual meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in 2007. She graduated from Western Illinois in Spring 2007 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. She was the Academic Convocation Speaker, graduated as an Honors Scholar and with high academic honors (Magna Cum Laude). Reiss' speech to her classmates was, "Have You Seen the Coral in the Cornfields?"

The President's String Quartet will provide music between 11:30 a.m.–12 p.m. in the University Grand Ballroom, where the poster presentations will be on exhibit. A brief welcome and remarks will be made by President Al Goldfarb, Provost and Academic Vice President Jack Thomas and alumna Reiss from 12-12:15 p.m.

Poster presentations will be open in the Grand Ballroom and performance presentations will be in the Prairie Lounge from 12:30-2 p.m. Podium presentations will be in the Capitol, Fox and Lincoln rooms from 12:30–3 p.m.

For more information, visit the Centennial Honors College website, or call (309) 298-2228.

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