The Parkland College Blog

Parkland Science Scholars to Hold Informational Webinars

Parkland to Hold Informational Webinars for New Science Program

  • Landa |
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Parkland College will be hosting two informational webinars for the new Parkland Science Scholars program.

Students, parents, and community members who are interested in the program are invited to join Dr C. Britt Carlson on Zoom for a more in-depth explanation about Parkland Science Scholars, general information about applying to Parkland, and frequently asked questions.

There will be two webinars; the same information will be covered in both sessions.

Students and parents are asked to register at the above links for their preferred session. Instructors, counselors, and other community members can use this link to join the session without registration.

Parkland Science Scholars is a new program designed to support low-income students working toward their degrees in science. Students are awarded $2,450 per semester in financial support, for a total of four semesters, and are individually mentored by Parkland faculty.

Other support structures include peer and UIUC-graduate student mentoring, summer research opportunities, leadership opportunities in Parkland clubs, and recognition by the Parkland Board of Trustees following completion of the program.

Applications are being accepted now. For more information about Parkland Science Scholars, please visit or contact Dr. Carlson at

Parkland Science Scholars is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Nuclear Fusion, Energy of the Future: Kaler Talk

UIUC nuclear scientist to discuss harnessing energy driving Sun, universe

  • Katie Przygoda |
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Nuclear fusion, harnessing the power of the stars, is the April talk in the James B. Kaler Science Lecture Series at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College. 

University of Illinois nuclear physicist Dr. Daniel Andruczyk will present “Why is Nuclear Fusion Seen as the Energy of the Future: The Basics of the Energy Driving the Sun and the Universe,"  on Friday, April 2 at 7 p.m.  This virtual lecture is free to the public on Zoom.

Dr. Andruczyk is assistant research professor in the Department of Nuclear Plasma and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His talk will overview the basics of nuclear fusion, why scientists and engineers are so interested in it, and two of the methods they use to control it: magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) and inertial confinement fusion (ICF).

Nuclear power plants around the world generate energy from fission, where atomic nuclei split into smaller elements. Stars such as the Sun extract incredible amounts of energy from nuclear fusion by combining atoms together. In both cases, a small amount of mass is converted to energy, as predicted by Albert Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2.

However, the nuclear fusion occurring in stars is difficult to reproduce on Earth. Scientists have studied the fusion of slightly more massive nuclei, isotopes of hydrogen called deuterium and tritium. The deuterium–tritium or DT reaction requires much less energy, but a working reactor must be a scientific and engineering marvel in order to control an energetic soup of ions and electrons, a plasma, that is over 100 million degrees! These are literally stars in a lab and if the energy released can be extracted, it would be a limitless energy source that is carbon-neutral, meltdown-proof, and leave no radioactive waste.

Dr. Andruczyk earned his BSc and BSc (Honours) in Physics at the University of Queensland and completed his PhD in Plasma Physics at the University of Sydney. In 2006, he performed postdoctoral research at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald, Germany, where he worked on the WEGA stellarator in support of the W7-X stellarator being built there. In 2009, he spent a year at the H-1 NF national facility in Australia before coming to UIUC in the fall of 2010 as a postdoctoral researcher. In 2012, he was at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) in support of the NSTX reactor program and developing liquid lithium and liquid metal technology. In 2014, he returned to Illinois as a professor and was part of the team to secure WEGA and bring it to UIUC as the HIDRA stellarator/tokamak hybrid device. He is currently part of the leadership team for the Department of Energy’s National Liquid Metal Plasma Facing Component Program.

Following Dr. Andruczyk's Kaler lecture, the planetarium will present its Prairie Skies Spotlight on Galaxies, a tour of the night sky with a focus on the billions of homes of billions of stars throughout the universe. 

The Staerkel Planetarium offers virtual programs to the public on Friday nights and gives shows to schools and private groups. Visit the planetarium website or email for a full show schedule, links to the Zoom meetings, and links to the YouTube channel, which features recordings of past shows.

Parkland Announces New Program for Science Scholars

New Parkland Science Scholars program will support low-income students

  • Landa |
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Parkland College is launching a new program to support low-income students in the natural sciences.

Parkland Science Scholars, funded by a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, seeks to empower full-time, low-income science students to work toward graduation and transfer to four-year institutions.

Parkland’s Natural Sciences faculty members recognized that low-income students face specific challenges during their academic journey. These students had lower graduation and transfer rates, according to Dr. C. Britt Carlson, associate professor of chemistry.

"Low-income students often have to juggle school with outside work, which can add stress and make it more difficult to complete a degree," Carlson said. "These students often face additional challenges, such as being the first in their family to attend college and being less familiar with college processes and support services."

Led by three full-time Natural Sciences faculty members, biology instructor Dr. Chelsea Lloyd, associate professor of physics Curtis Shoaf, and Carlson, the program will put structures in place that will support students through graduation.

These structures include financial support; one-on-one faculty, peer, and UIUC graduate student mentoring; summer research experiences; club participation; and a course specifically designed for the scholars.

"Parkland Science Scholars will support students through scholarships opportunities for leadership, mentoring, and summer research," Carlson said. "Students will gain experience related to their future careers, make professional connections, and will form a community of learners that will sustain them beyond their two years at Parkland."

Current funding will support four groups of 10 students each over the five-year grant period. Students will receive tuition support of $2,450 each semester for up to four semesters. After completing the program, students will also receive recognition by the Parkland College Board of Trustees.

"Students who participate in Parkland Science Scholars will graduate with skills, experiences, and connections that will serve as a foundation for success throughout their academic journey and professional careers," Carlson said.

Eligible students must:

  • be pursuing a degree in science (including, but not limited to physical sciences, engineering sciences, and biological sciences except clinical fields)

  • be from low-income families as determined by FAFSA

Preference will be given to students who have a GPA of at least 2.5 or have earned at least a 21 on the ACT. To remain in the program, students must stay in good academic standing and attend program-coordinated events and activities.

Applications will be accepted soon. For more information about Parkland Science Scholars, please visit or contact Carlson at

Planetarium Lecture to Examine Climate History in Lake Sediment

Staerkel Planetarium to host paleoclimatology Kaler Lecture

  • Landa |
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The William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College will host a presentation on paleoclimatology for the James B. Kaler Science Lecture Series at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 5.

Dr. Jessica Conroy, associate professor in the Departments of Geology and Plant Biology at UIUC, will give a talk titled, "Climate, Water, Life, and Rock: Past Climate Information in Tropical Pacific Lake Sediments". The public lecture is free to attend on Zoom.

The coral atoll of Kiritimati (pronounced "Christmas") in the central tropical Pacific Ocean contains hundreds of brackish to hypersaline lakes that are a window into past climate variability in the region. These lakes and their sediments are also valuable archives that can be used to explore fundamental questions about how information about past environments is archived in lake sediments.

Dr. Conroy's group research in this region includes how remotely-sensed lake surface area responds to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Using sedimentology, stable isotope geochemistry, and organic biomarkers, the group can get a record of climate change on Kiritimati over the last millennium.

Having earned her B.A. in Geology from the College of Wooster, Dr. Conroy received her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Before joining the University of Illinois in 2013, she was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

The Staerkel Planetarium is presenting programs virtually to the public on Friday nights, and offers shows for schools and private groups. Public shows are rebroadcast on the planetarium's YouTube page. The Planetarium staff will present a special edition of Winter Prairie Skies on the same Zoom meeting after the conclusion of Dr. Conroy's Kaler Lecture at 8 p.m. This show is an interactive tour of the night sky, and special editions feature a topic of interest based on audience suggestions or astronomical events. For a full show schedule and for links to the Zoom meetings, visit the planetarium website or email

Kaler Science Lecture Puts Bacterial Viruses Under Microscope

Staerkel Planetarium to host microbiologist Dr. Asma Hatoum-Aslan

  • Landa |
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The William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College will host a presentation on microbiology for the James B. Kaler Science Lecture Series at 7 p.m. on Friday, December 4.
Dr. Asma Hatoum-Aslan, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at UIUC, will give a talk titled, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Enlisting bacterial viruses to combat drug-resistant infections". The lecture is available to the public for free through Zoom.
The rising tide of drug-resistant bacterial pathogens, coupled with the sharp decline in the discovery of new antibiotics, underscores a pressing need to find alternatives to conventional antibiotics. Bacterial viruses, also known as phages, are major causes of bacterial mortality in nature, and can be harnessed as powerful weapons to combat pathogenic bacteria. Dr. Hatoum-Aslan's talk will highlight the ongoing efforts to discover and characterize new phages that are lethal to Staphylococcus bacteria, and the immune systems that these bacteria use to fight back. These efforts are adding to the arsenal of alternative antimicrobials with potential for therapeutic use.
Dr. Hatoum-Aslan earned her B.S. in Molecular Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology, her M.S. in Biochemistry from the American University of Beirut, and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Cornell University. Before joining the University of Illinois in August, she completed her postdoctoral training at the Rockefeller University, where she investigated mechanisms of the bacterial immune system called CRISPR-Cas. Her research program investigates CRISPR-Cas and other immune systems that bacteria use to defend against their viruses (phages). Synergistically, knowledge gained from bacterial immune systems is applied to discover and engineer new phages as a basis for novel antimicrobials. Her work is currently supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award and a PATH award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.
The Staerkel Planetarium is presenting programs virtually to the public, to schools, and to private groups. Public shows are rebroadcast on the planetarium's YouTube page. The planetarium staff will present a special edition of Fall Prairie Skies on the same Zoom meeting after the conclusion of the Kaler lecture at 8 p.m. This show is an interactive tour of the night sky, including a focus on the closest conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in the sky in almost 400 years. For a full show schedule and for links to the Zoom meetings, visit the planetarium website or email