Undergraduate research remains priority at SIU

Southern Illinois University



Logan Kent and Associate Professor Mike Eichholz

Undergraduate research remains priority at SIU

April 19, 2018, Tim Crosby


Justin Ramsey and Professor Saikat Talapatra

As a child, she dreamed of being a scientist. As an undergraduate at SIU, Logan Kent is making it happen.

Kent, a senior in zoology from Jacksonville, is working with Associate Professor Mike Eichholz on developing a way to test the egg development of nesting bluebirds. As the egg goes through its incubation stages, gas exchanges and build-up inside it begin making it increasingly buoyant. During breeding season, she checks nesting boxes weekly, keeping careful records of when the eggs become present, as well as the presence of species, a nest and individuals male and female birds.

“If there have been eggs laid, we place them into a container of water and record the angle and placement of where they float in the water,” Kent explained. “Eggs just recently laid will remain on the bottom with little gas exchange buildup, but as eggs get closer to hatch and become more buoyant ideally we would notice them rising to the top on sequential nest checks.

The work will help scientists better understand the process and promote ecology.

Undergraduate students at SIU often have the opportunity to partake in real-world research in their first semester. Kent is just one of many taking advantage of the opportunity.

“Being involved in this research is allowing me to put essential concepts I've learned in the classroom to actual hands-on use. I'm finally getting to be the scientist I dreamed of being as a little kid, at least kind of! And that has also made me more confident about future endeavors and professional development.

“Some students don't get to experience this until they start an internship, tech job or grad school, so getting an early start as an undergraduate is something I am thankful for,” Kent said.

Another undergraduate conducting research is Justin Ramsey. He works with things that are very small, but might important.

Just because something is small – and in the case of Justin Ramsey’s undergraduate research efforts at SIU, VERY small – doesn’t mean it isn’t mighty important.

Working under the supervision of physics Professor Saikat Talapatra, Ramsey and other undergraduate students are making and then testing the electrical characteristics of a couple different nanomaterials.
A nanometer, by the way, is one, one-billionth of a meter in size. Yeah, it’s tiny. You can’t see these things with the naked eye. But the results of the research could have big implications for areas such as electrochemical storage systems like supercapacitors, as well as nano-sized wires made from titanium carbide, a super hard material commonly used to coat drill bits and heat shields but that also shows promise at the nano-scale.

For the two projects he’s been working on, Ramsey, a senior in physics from Chester, received funding and support from SIU’s Research-Enhanced Academic Challenge, or REACH, program, as well as its Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Undergraduates at SIU can begin conducting or participating in real research during their very first semester.

“Being involved in research at SIU has been the highlight of my undergraduate career,” Ramsey said. “Not only have I gained insight into the life of a research scientist, but by getting a hands-on experience in the lab, I’ve learned the skills that I need to pursue a career in materials research.

“The experiences I’ve had over the last year have given me confidence in my ability to succeed, and I have a new appreciation for the research that goes on all over the world,” he said. “Being able to combine your strengths with others and to work towards a common goal is what research really is, and it’s one of the most rewarding experiences of all.”