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2012 Research Rookies rarin’ to go

December 6, 2011

The 2012 class of NIU Research Rookies will design and participate in projects ranging from investigations of cellular activity to assessing customer satisfaction among attendees at Huskie football games.

Regardless of the type of project, the 40 participants in this year’s program will gain invaluable experience in gathering, evaluating and synthesizing information under the mentorship of some of the universities top faculty.

2011-12 Research Rookies

“This is the real thing,” says Jim Horn, an award-winning professor in biochemistry who signed on as a mentor this year. “There is no better way to learn than actually being in a lab and experiencing things first hand. It’s really an eye-opening experience.”

Horn’s protégé, Shamika Olivares, cannot wait for the experience to begin. In fact, she has already started working with Horn and has been blogging about the experience.

“I hope to gain a lot of experience in research,” says Olivares, who is majoring in biomedical engineering. “I think the program will also allow me to open more doors, network and play with science, which is something I love to do.”

Now in its second year, the program saw participation more than double, based in no small part to the high marks given to the initial group of Research Rookies.

“We had no shortage of recruiters,” says program director Julia Spears, explaining that last year’s participants raved their mentors and how the program helped them better apply seemingly abstract classroom learning to real world situations.

As exciting as the growth in numbers, says Spears, is that the program now encompasses all six undergraduate colleges on campus and includes students studying 24 different majors including biology, philosophy, marketing, mechanical engineering, graphic design, special education and speech-language pathology.

Research Rookies was also expanded to provide opportunities for transfer students and sophomores. “We had so many students coming to us asking for similar opportunities. It was clear that there was a void in programming, so we looked for ways to open things up,” Spears says.

Another group of eight students who participated in the program last year as freshmen signed on for a second year, some expanding upon their work from the previous years while others are tackling entirely new projects.

The Research Rookies will perform research throughout the semester and then present their results April 24, 2012, at Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day.