The Parkland College Blog

Parkland Announces New Program for Science Scholars

New Parkland Science Scholars program will support low-income students

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 parkland.edu/ParklandScienceScholars or contact Carlson at ccarlson@parkland.edu.

Planetarium Lecture to Examine Climate History in Lake Sediment

Staerkel Planetarium to host paleoclimatology Kaler Lecture

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 planetarium@parkland.edu.

Kaler Science Lecture Puts Bacterial Viruses Under Microscope

Staerkel Planetarium to host microbiologist Dr. Asma Hatoum-Aslan

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 planetarium@parkland.edu. 

Staerkel Planetarium to host Kaler Science Lecture on Nuclear Energy

Nuclear engineer Dr. Katy Huff to present "Atomic Advancements"

Parkland College's William M. Staerkel Planetarium will feature nuclear energy research as the subject of the next edition of the James B. Kaler Science Lecture Series on Friday, November 6 at 7 p.m.
 
Dr. Katy Huff, assistant professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, and Blue Waters Assistant Professor with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC, will be presenting "Atomic Advancements" on Friday. The lecture will be held on Zoom and is offered free to the public.
 
The energy density of nuclear fuel is unmatched by any other fuel source. Conventional nuclear reactors supply most of Illinois's electricity and over 80% of its carbon-free electricity. These devices have an unparalleled record of safety, reliability, and sustainability, and the next generation of reactors incorporate decades of experience, research, and technological advancements which enable walk-away safety, meltdown-proof fuels, and flexible integration with renewables. Dr. Huff's talk will demystify transformative new reactors, fuels, and recycling technologies ready to support a clean energy future worldwide.
 
Dr. Huff earned her B.A. in Physics from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Before joining the University of Illinois in 2016, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in both the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. She now leads the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group.
 
The Staerkel Planetarium is focused on virtual programs to schools, private groups, and to the public until the dome can reopen. The planetarium staff will present 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 satellites and space junk. For a full show schedule and for links to the Zoom meetings, visit the planetarium website or email planetarium@parkland.edu.
 

Staerkel Planetarium debuts free virtual Kaler Science Lectures in October

Series begins with "Looking at the Night Sky with Artificially Intelligent Eyes" on October 2

Parkland College's William M. Staerkel Planetarium will be resuming the James B. Kaler Science Lecture Series virtually this fall, beginning with Dr. Gautham Narayan's "Looking at the Night Sky with Artificially Intelligent Eyes," on Friday, October 2 at 7 pm on Zoom, free to the public.

Dr. Gautham Narayan, assistant professor at the Department of Astronomy at the University of Illinois, earned a B.S. from Illinois Wesleyan and a Ph.D. at Harvard. Before joining the University of Illinois in 2019, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and was the Barry M. Lasker Data Science Fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Wide-field optical survey telescopes are now producing too many observations for humans to look through. Buried in these petabytes of pixels are rare and exotic sources like kilonovae, explosions which can be caused by the mergers of neutron stars. Discovering these events is now akin to looking for a needle among thousands of haystacks.

To cope with the deluge of data, astrophysicists employ artificial intelligence (AI). Dr. Narayan will cover how the same algorithms that underlie driverless cars, voice recognition, and your bank’s ability to detect fraudulent transactions is now telling us about the variable sky, and ultimately the nature of dark energy and the fate of the Universe.

The Staerkel Planetarium is offering virtual programs while the dome is closed to the public. Following the Kaler lecture, the planetarium will present Fall Prairie Skies at 8 pm on the same Zoom meeting. This live-narrated tour of the night sky includes a focus on Mars, which is getting brighter in the evening. For a full show schedule and for links to the Zoom meetings, visit the planetarium website or email planetarium@parkland.edu.
 

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