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Column | Meera Komarraju: SIUC College of Science full of tradition, pride and promise
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Column | Meera Komarraju: SIUC College of Science full of tradition, pride and promise

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The College of Science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale was established Jan. 1, 1973. The original six departments of Botany, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Geology, Physiology, Physics and Astronomy, and Zoology were joined by Microbiology and led by its first dean, Dr. Elbert Hadley.

Throughout its existence, the college has been led by accomplished science faculty, with some advancing to higher administrative positions and others who are associated with campus landmarks (John Guyon, dean from 1974 to 1976 and chancellor from 1987 to 1996). The college has continued to transform and its current composition occurred with the addition of Mathematics (1986) and Computer Science (1990), and renaming of Botany to Plant Biology (1990).

Research highlights

The College of Science has been a leader at SIU Carbondale, achieving and maintaining its distinctive status as a Carnegie-classified (doctoral) higher research activity university based on criteria that include the number of doctoral students and dollar amount of federally funded research projects. Since its inception, College of Science faculty have generated more than $100 million in federally funded research grants, as well as research grants from state agencies, not-for-profit and private foundations, and industrial partners.

Additionally, the college contributes to the university’s mission of outstanding teaching, nurturing student success, being an economic catalyst, creating and exchanging knowledge, and transforming lives.

Student highlights

Both graduate and undergraduate students participate in cutting-edge cancer research and travel to remote locations like Antarctica, present at university research forums, as well as national and international professional meetings. Several undergraduate students have received distinguished honors.

The list includes:

• Lincoln Academy of Illinois student laureates

• Five recipients and one honorable mention of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, recognizing high-achieving college sophomores and juniors whose research interests are in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

• One Morris K. Udall Scholar. The award recognizes sophomores and juniors who exhibit leadership, public service and commitment to Native American nations or the environment.

Other accomplishments include culturing of a novel bacteria; assessing the impact of habitat management and restoration on wildlife in Southern Illinois; investigating nanomaterials and their use for storage systems; tracking the ancestors of marsupial parasites; and developing an Android app to combat malicious pirating software.

The College of Science graduate students conduct valuable research with their faculty advisers that prepare them for careers in the private sector and academia. Their achievements include the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded to promising graduate students early in their research career; the international Society for Organic Petrology Spackman Award which is given to one to two students a year; the Superior Academics scholarship from the National Association for Black Geoscientists; and SIU Carbondale Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award to name a few.

Faculty highlights

The College of Science faculty bring cutting-edge research to their labs and classrooms ranging from studies on bacteria and nano-materials to past and present climate change. At least nine junior faculty have received the coveted and highly prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Grant.

Faculty have also been recipients of Fulbright Fellowships giving them opportunities to enhance the international exchange of scholarship. Their university accomplishments include 14 University Excellence Scholars and 19 University Teaching Excellence Award recipients since 1985.

The College of Science has maintained a rich and historic tradition of success and accomplishments. Even as the university evolves and adjusts to various ongoing challenges, the Science academic and research programs will remain strong and continue to train and educate our future leaders.

Meera Komarraju is the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.


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