SCS spotlights research at inaugural science fair

Alessia Girardin, News Editor

Photo credit: Students of Color in Stem

Students of Color in Stem (SCS) hosted their first-ever science fair at the CNS Atrium last Friday, March 25th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. SCS created the fair as an opportunity for students to present on diverse topics. 

The fair was informal and highlighted the work IWU students of color are involved in, including research, projects or internships they have completed or are currently working on. 

“We wanted to make an event that was a bit more casual than an official symposium or poster presentation where the creation of a community setting was of greater focus,” SCS Executive Board member Ankush Kecht said. 

This informality made it easier for students to get involved with mentoring and networking as well as have an opportunity to casually discuss with their professors. 

“I appreciated the informal tone of the science fair,” biology professor William Jaeckle said. 

“The less formal nature of events like this will hopefully reduce the artificial barriers that sometimes exist between students and faculty.”

Additionally, the engagement between students and the research was evident to the success of the fair. 

“One thing that struck me at the fair was that students of all backgrounds were engaging with the presenters and asking about what their research is,” Kecht said. 

SCS had presenters from physics, computer science, biology, neuroscience and others. Presenters had the opportunity to talk about what they are working on and learn from one another.

Photo credit: Students of Color in Stem

“I met and learned from students that I hadn’t met before and we had a lot of folks pass through to talk to our presenters,” biology professor Elizabeth Haywood said. Haywood is the advisor of SCS. 

Haywood knew at least one student that talked to one of their presenters and then approached their faculty research advisor to discuss pursuing research with them at the event. 

Kecht presented his research with Dr. Tyler Schwend, where they investigated corneal bone and nerve growth using the chicken eye as a model system. He spoke about his recent experiment where we tested how a thyroid hormone inhibitor would affect the eye’s nerve growth.

SCS Executive Board member Amari Stepter also worked with Dr. Schwend, which consisted of studying corneal nerves in the developing chicken embryo.

The number of students that attended the event and the sense of community it brought was what struck Stepter the most. 

“It amazed me to see how many students wanted to become involved in research, internships, etc. just from the information presented to them,” Stepter said. 

“I was also glad that the fair created a sense of community among the students of color in STEM on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus while inspiring individuals to get involved on campus, as this was one of our goals,” Stepter said.

Freshman attendee Juanise Foster found this experience rewarding as she will be presenting her own work next Fall 2022. 

“I have grown more interested in the topic of research as a whole with my Biology class,” Foster said. “I heard that there was a science fair happening and I was thrilled to see other students’ research that they have conducted on their own.”

Foster was struck by Stepter and Kecht’s work at the fair. 

“Something I found very intriguing was the research regarding chicken eye embryos,” Foster said. “There were specimens available to look at which were interesting to see.”

Professor of psychology Dr. Linda Kunce commented about the overall success of the event in terms of mentoring and networking opportunities. 

“The variety of internship and research experiences was impressive as was the presenters’ depth of knowledge,” Kunce said. 

“Although IWU hosts other research presentations, the SCS science fair really stood out for the student-to-student networking and mentoring it inspired,” Kunce said.