March 24, 2004

Young scientists to compete at symposium

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Young scientists from across Illinois will share their research and compete for national recognition during next week's 26th annual Illinois Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The symposium is Sunday, March 28 through Tuesday, March 30.

In addition to presenting their own research, the 87 students from 24 high schools will have the chance to visit University laboratories and interact with professional researchers. The visits include cardiac surgery, aquatic toxicology, brake dynamometer lab, SIUC Coal Development Park, La-Rue Pine Hills, and Southern Illinois Forensic Science Centre.

Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the keynote address, paper and poster presentations, laboratory sessions and awards ceremonies. See the schedule listed below for dates and times, and for more information, contact IJSHS Director Linda S. Martin at 618/453-7062.

Twenty-five students are presenting their research, either in paper or poster form, to their peers and judges on Monday, March 29. Prizes include a $4,000 undergraduate tuition scholarship, a $4,500 SIUC academic scholarship, medals and cash awards. The top five students in paper research are eligible for an expense-paid trip to the 42nd annual National JSHS, April 28-May 2, in Baltimore.

Topics of the presentations include: Extending one school's wireless Internet range from 100 feet to 1,320 feet, bacteria levels in lakes, the potential of using gasoline with higher blends of ethanol on small engines, and uses of corn pith as packaging and insulation material.

Several of the presenters are freshmen and sophomores. And these young scientists are not one-dimensional, said IJSHS Director Linda S. Martin, an assistant dean in SIUC's College of Science.

"They are not just active in science or research. They are active in athletics, their community, they are active in music," she said. "These are students who manage to pack more activities in 24 hours than you can imagine. They are very well-rounded."

Last year's regional winner, Arun Thottumkara, won at the national level in chemistry/physics and received $20,000 in scholarship money and a free two-week trip to London to the International Youth Science Forum. Now a senior at Macomb High School, Thottumkara is competing again this year.

The symposium is one of 48 regional competitions nationwide, and one of two in Illinois. The other symposium in Illinois, at Loyola University, is for students in Cook County.

The symposium simulates a scientific conference. Participating students deserve a lot of credit, said Martin. Some students have never attended a symposium and are making formal presentations to audiences of up to 125 people, she said.

Department chairs and faculty from throughout the University volunteer their time, said Martin.

"They feel it is worthwhile to help these students. They are willing to review papers and judge papers and willing to write comments" with suggestions for their projects, she said.

"I have to really credit the faculty for what they do," said Martin. "It's a service they are providing to help students grow into future scientists. They are willing to volunteer their time."

Establishing and enhancing partnerships with other governmental units and private industry are among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Richard Saferstein, a retired chief forensic scientist with the New Jersey State Police, will present "Chemistry in the Crime Laboratory" as the keynote address at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 28, at the Student Center Auditorium. Saferstein is currently a forensic science consultant for attorneys and the media, and provided extensive commentary on forensic aspects of the O.J. Simpson trial to various radio and television programs.

Acclaimed wildlife photographer Tom J. Ulrich, a 1971 SIUC graduate in biological sciences, will present his slide presentation "Wildlife of North America," at the symposium banquet on Monday, March 29, at Giant City Lodge.

The awards ceremony is at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 30, at the Student Center Auditorium.

The U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Academy of Applied Science, and SIUC sponsor the symposium.

The complete schedule follows. All events, other than laboratory sessions, are at the Student Center unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, March 28

  • 7-8:30 p.m. -- Opening session. Keynote address: Richard Saferstein, forensic science consultant. Event open to the public.

Monday, March 29

  • 8-11:30 a.m. -- Student research paper presentations. Event open to the public.
  • 2-2:50 p.m. -- Laboratory sessions.
  • 3-4:30 p.m. -- Poster session. Event open to the public.
  • 6-8:30 p.m. -- Banquet, Giant City Lodge. Banquet presentation, Tom J. Ulrich, "Wildlife of North America."

Tuesday, March 30

  • 9-10:50 a.m. -- Laboratory visits.
  • 11-11:30 a.m. -- Awards ceremony.

For more information, contact Linda S. Martin at the SIUC College of Science at 618/453-7062 or by e-mail Visit the Web site at