“Girls Do Science!” Summer Camp

Group Photo of Girls Do Science Summer Camp

For the second year in a row, SIB faculty, students and staff led a week-long “Girls Do Science!” camp for girls entering 2nd – 6th grade, in partnership with Orpheum Children’s Science Museum. Camp co-directors were Carla Cáceres (Animal Biology/SIB), Katy Heath (Plant Biology/SIB), and Katie Hicks (Education Director at the Orpheum). Campers explored the Pollinatarium with Lesley Deem, where they learned about insects and ticks, ran through Meadowbrook Park for a scavenger hunt of prairie plants, and participated in SIB faculty research on microbes (Katy Heath), mammals (Karen Sears) and plankton (Carla Cáceres) at the Natural History Building.

Staff and graduate and undergraduate students (too many to name!) from SIB and other units such as the graduate Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology also participated. The camp was sponsored by grants from the National Science Foundation (DEB 1120804 and DGE 1069157).

More Pictures of Our Scientists


Undergrad Travel Grants for Research!

The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) at the University of Illinois is pleased to announce its spring 2013 competition for travel grants to subsidize the presentation of undergraduate research at professional conferences.  Proposals should be submitted at https://illinois.edu/fb/sec/2164154 and the deadline for submission is 1 May 2013.

In order to apply, students will need to have information on the conference dates and location, evidence that conference participation has been confirmed, estimated expenses, and possible support from mentors and departments.

Please note that the travel grants are designed for students to present their research during the summer and fall semesters 2013 (another competition will be announced later in 2013).  In addition, these travel grants are not designed to cover the entire cost of student participation (some departmental or college contribution is encouraged) nor can the grant be used to cover post conference participation.

Questions should be directed to ugresearch@illinois.edu

The World of Biology Photo Competition 2013

An exciting opportunity for the SIB community has come forth this spring: The World of Biology Photo Competition! Anyone affiliated with SIB is eligible to submit up to three photographs in any of three categories: Nature, Biologists at Work, and Biological Imaging. Cash prizes will be awarded to 1st ($200), 2nd ($100), and 3rd ($50) place in each category.

Nature: Any photograph showing some aspect of the natural world.

Biologists at Work: Any photograph showing one or more biologists working in the laboratory or in the field.

Biological Imaging: Any photograph taken through or with the aid of a microscope or other imaging device.

To ensure that your photographs are in the competition, please mount each photograph on 11” x 14” quarter inch foam core backing, and drop them off along with electronic copies to the School of Integrative Biology office (286 Morrill Hall) by 5 PM Friday, April 19, 2013. There will also be an exhibit of the photographs at 612/614 Institute of Genomic Biology the following week from 3-5 PM on April 25, 2012.

Please feel free to download both the entry form and full instructions for the competition from this post by clicking on the following links:

SIB Photo Contest 2013 Instructions and Entry Form

SIB Photo Contest 2013 Flier

2012 World of Biology Photo Competition Winners

Insect Fear Film Fest T-Shirt Design Contest

This is being sent on behalf of Michelle Duennes

Hello Everyone,

EGSA is officially announcing the T-Shirt Design Contest for The 30th Annual Insect Fear Film Festival! The theme this year is: “The InsX-Files: The Truth (about insects) Is Out There” because creator/director/producer of The X-Files, Chris Carter, will be a special guest this year! We’ll being showing two episodes of The X-Files TV show and the feature film will be “The XFiles: Fight the Future.”

Designs are due to Audra Weinstein in 320 Morrill Hall by 5pm on Friday, January 25th and voting will be from Jan 28-Feb 1. The winner receives a $50 cash prize and their design will be immortalized at the IFFF30 T-shirt!

Below are a few rules and guidelines for the contest. Please spread the word about IFFF (#IFFF30 on Twitter, via Facebook, etc.)!

“The InsX-Files: The Truth (about insects) Is Out There”
IFFF T-Shirt Design Contest Rules and Guidelines:
1. “Insect Fear Film Festival” must be present in the design.
2. The number of the festival (30) must be present in the design.
3. The date of the festival (February 23rd, 2013) must be present in the design (this can be in any notation).
5. The theme of the festival, “The InsX-Files: The Truth (about insects) Is Out There,” must be present in the design.
6. NO weapons (guns, knives, bombs, etc.) can be present in the design.
7. The design can contain a MAXIMUM of three colors (not including the T-shirt color/background).

Here is a link to winning designs from previous years for inspiration.

Below are links to the shirts we order every year, and the color choices. Instead of letting the designer of the winning T-shirt pick the colors after the contest, we’ve decided to present you with the available colors beforehand so you can pick them as you design and so you can incorporate the “background” color into your submission.
Please pick a color(s) that can be found in each of the different styles (or something very similar).

Women’s Cut

Elementary Outreach

Most people think all flowers smell beautiful.  Students at Frank Hall Elementary certainly thought so when they entered the “Pollination Celebration” classroom to learn about different kinds of pollinators, and how flowers work to attract them.  “Much of the diversity in plants arises from evolutionary responses to animals, which are sensitive to sensory cues such as color and scent,” said PhD candidate Katherine Chi (Plant Biology), one of the creators of this activity.  “These clues are not only useful for a field botanist who is identifying plants, but also to pollinators, and we wanted the kids to come away understanding this concept.”  Students filled in pages of a “field notebook” by identifying colors and habitats at the different displays they visited. While they loved sampling the sweet and musky smells of species pollinated by moths and bats, everyone was surprised by the foul stink of the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), which attracts flies and other carrion-loving insects.  “Some of the faces they made were priceless, but it was definitely the student’s favorite,” Katherine recalled.

On December 5th, a Wednesday before the last week of classes, 31 SIB graduate students trekked three hours north to host a science night for Frank Hall Elementary, a low-income school in Aurora.  The event was put together by the outreach coordinators for Plant Biology Association of Graduate Students (PBAGS), Graduates in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (GEEB), and the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA).  Over the course of the evening, we provided interactive biology education on topics ranging from DNA and cells to animal behavior and human ancestry to over 350 elementary school students and their families.  This was one of the largest outreach events ever undertaken by graduate students in SIB.

Hall Elementary’s science program is currently lacking due to budget cuts, and many of the students do not have much of a connection with science or scientists.  Activities such as “dress like a scientist”, in which students were able to get their pictures taken in field equipment such as waders, as well as interacting with the graduate students, aided in dispelling the myth of the “mad scientist”.  In another room, students made birdfeeders and learned about the birds they can find in their own backyards, while in another, they got to touch insects and learn that they are not so scary after all.

In one of the classrooms, PhD candidate Rhiannon Peery (Plant Biology) showed students how to extract DNA from strawberries.  Previously, most of the students had no background with DNA, and of those that did, many were not aware that plants contained DNA as well as animals.  When the extraction was finished, students could attach their finished product to a string and take them home.  “We were told that our students wore their DNA necklaces to school the next day as a fashion statement,” Rhiannon said. “I think that’s awesome!”

Parents were greatly appreciative of the effort and enthusiasm shown during the event. “I have been receiving a swarm of e-mails from principles and teachers asking if we can put on this event at their schools,” said Julia Ossler, PhD student and outreach coordinator for PBAGS.  Another parent told us that her son has started asking for books on science and wants to be an entomologist, a word he learned at the science night.  In addition to generating interest among students, teachers, and parents, this event was covered in two local Aurora news publications.

At the end of the night, students created a “twitter wall” where they wrote about their favorite experience and what they learned.  Favorite lessons ranged from “When there is too much carbon dioxide, plants close their stomata” to “different animals have different mouthparts to eat different things.”  One “tweet”, however, was something that we SIB students have known all along: “I learned that science can be better than plain old learning.  Science is sweet.”

All pictures used with permission by the participants.

Graduates in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Plant Biology Association of Graduate Students
Entomology Graduate Student Association

Welcome Back! – Fall 2012

Welcome Back! – Fall 2012

Thursday, September 6th, 5:00-7:00 PM

Illini Union Room C

  • Meet Faculty and IB Advisors
  • Free Food
  • Free T-shirt
Crowd at Picnic

Find out what SIB is all about and meet other IB majors!!

Are you interested in learning more about the Integrative Biology Major? Do you want to meet our faculty in an informal setting? Want to hang out with other IB majors? Do you just want to mooch a free meal? Come on out and join us!

Anyone with even a potential interest in the Integrative Biology Major is invited to join us September 6th for some picnic fun. We welcome IB majors, undeclared or those who just want to check us out.

NSF Grant Workshop – 9/7/12

Posted on Behalf of Ken Veckery


Dear Graduate Students,

Greetings from the Graduate College’s Office of External Fellowships. As part of our efforts to help graduate students win grants and fellowships from external funders, we will hold a workshop on the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program on Friday, September 7, 2:00-4:00 p.m., in the Illini Union, room 314.

Former Director of the NSF-GRF program, William Hahn (Georgetown University), along with University of Illinois faculty members Mark Hasegawa-Johnson and Glaucio Paulino, will provide a comprehensive overview of the fellowship program and offer guidance on preparing effective applications. Registration is required.

The Graduate Research Fellowship is NSF’s premiere fellowship for graduate students. Open to US citizens and permanent residents in their first or second year of graduate school, the fellowship provides three years of support complete with a $30,000 annual stipend and coverage of tuition and fees. It also offers a major commendation to add to your CV along with entrée into one of the nation’s most prestigious of academic communities. Students in NSF-supported disciplines in STEM and select social sciences are eligible (see details on eligibility).

To complement the workshop, the Graduate College has also created a short video tutorial entitled Starting an NSF-GRF Application that points you to excellent resources.

If you have any questions about the workshop or the NSF-GRF program itself, feel free to contact me at vickeryk@illinois.edu. If you’d like to learn more about our other services designed to help you find fellowships and submit competitive proposals, see our new webpages. Until then, I hope your school year is off to a great start, and I look forward to seeing you at the workshop.


Ken Vickery

Ken Vickery, Ph.D.
Director of External Fellowships
Graduate College
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

World of Biology Photo Competition Winners

The 1st Annual World of Biology Photo Competition was a fantastic success!  Of the many entries, nine winning entries were chosen from three categories.

Check out the winning entries and start planning for next year!


Scales of Just-hiss, by Daniel Urban

Disclosure, by Joan Huber

Iguenas in Love, by Dena Goldberg

Biologists at Work:

Art in his Natural Habitat, by Lauren Fields

When do we eat?, by Dan Mikros

Fieldwork in Ireland, by Kate Murphy

Biological Imaging:

Gills of Lucania Parva, by Emma Berdan

Tipulidae Oleracea, by an Mikros

Coprinus, by Charles Bee