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Students present research at annual science conference


The projectors barely had time to cool from the fourth annual Illinois College Celebration of Excellence before nine students were off to another round of presentations at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Illinois State Academy of Science the next day.

The quick turnaround seemed to help the students. “I didn't really mind it,” Junior Samuel Porter said. “It actually made me feel less nervous because the Celebration of Excellence was like another practice for me before ISAS.”

The Celebration of Excellence held at IC on Friday, April 25, helped prepare senior Audrey Knight as well. “Since I hadn't presented this talk in almost five months, presenting at the Celebration of Excellence made me feel more at ease when at ISAS.”

In fact, Porter and Knight was so prepared that they both shared first prize for their undergraduate botany oral presentations at the annual meeting hosted by Governors State University.

“For me this prize means a lot,” Porter said. “I did not believe I would win anything because I was presenting against a lot of people that did just as well as me who are from larger schools, as well as fellow students here at IC. This also gave me a chance to tell others about what we are trying to do with the orchids here at Illinois College.”

As for Knight, presenting her research has helped her decide to pursue an M.D./Ph.D dual doctoral degree. “By being at ISAS and discussing not only my own work, but also what others are doing in the world of science, I realized that I want research to be an integral part of my career.”

Porter and Knight were not the only IC students to take home an award. Junior Jacob Dander received first prize for his undergraduate chemistry oral presentation, as well.

“The award is a validation of the work I have put in for a year and a half on this project,” Dander said. “It is a rewarding experience to share your scientific pursuits with a community with similar interests.”

The presentations by IC students are based on research they have been working on with professors Brent Chandler, Laura Corey and Larry Zettler. Cory said that “participating in this event is a great way to increase IC's profile as a productive institution for undergraduate research.”

The nine Illinois College students participating were seniors Claire Barclay, Sovit Chalise, Audrey Knight and Gabrielle Kuhn; juniors Jacob Dander, Kayla Kolis, Sam Porter and Hana Thixton; and sophomore Kavita Patel.

Talking about their research

Jacob Dander
“At the presentation I talked about the biological, medical and chemical significance of the work Dr. Chandler and I do in the organic chemistry lab attempting to synthesize xenitorin A. There is an opportunity during the synthesis to do methodological study of a new type of reaction that we believe will lead to increased 3-D structural control in synthetic pursuits. I outlined what we have been able to accomplish so far as well as touched on potential future directions for the project.”

Audrey Knight
“The research I presented was my work (with Dr. Corey and Dr. Zettler) to identify different species of mycorrhizal fungi isolated from the roots of Madagascar orchids on a molecular level using DNA amplification and sequencing. My research is part of a five year collaboration between IC's Orchid Recovery Program, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in the UK and the Kew Conservation Centre in Madagascar to conserve critically endangered orchids from Madagascar.”

Samuel Porter
“I talked about my project through the orchid recovery program. We used a fungus that was found in the roots of orchids to help germinate Grass-leaved Ladies’ Tresses from Florida. We actually found two strains, one didn't seem to work, though the other worked, and the seeds germinated in 84 days.”
About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Ill. With an enrollment of about 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs and a Master of Arts in Education degree program. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit or call 217-245-3467 for more information.

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