Quadrangle Spring 2023

The Quadrangle is a biannual magazine published by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences every spring and fall. In this spring 2023 issue you’ll find stories about the experiences of trailblazing first-generation students, the community impact of the new Illinois Neurobehavior Assessment Laboratory, the activism and continuing athletic endeavors of track star Dawn Riley Duval, and more news about the LAS community.


First-generation students rely on determination, campus resources, and loved ones to succeed at college

In this issue 1 News from LAS Recent images and news from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. 5 LAS@Work LAS alumna Stephanie Hare explores the technologies intended to make life easier. 6 Faculty awards Maria Todorova honored for a career dedicated to understanding history and culture. 8 A new home for greater understanding The Illinois Neurobehavioral Assessment Laboratory becomes a respected community resource for mental health. 11 LAS Experts Amy Marshall-Colon explores the genetic switchboard of plants. 12 Research in LAS Research images and news from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. 16 Trailblazers First-generation students rely on determination, campus resources, and loved ones to succeed at college. 19 A minute with the Dean Venetria K. Patton talks about the future of LAS.

20 The night spot New projects, planning, and deep appreciation keep the Observatory looking upward.

22 Where are they now? Dawn Riley Duval channels her athletic prowess into a career—and comes full circle. 24 Green gateway Inside the Plant Biology Conservatory and Collections. 26 LAS in History Originally called the Agriculture Building, Davenport Hall helped define LAS and the layout of campus itself. 28 LAS by the numbers Measuring the Main Quad.

The spirit of the mighty past The imposing architectural features of Altgeld Hall, designed by Nathan Ricker and James White, were intended to reflect unshakeable commitment to fundamental principles of progress, or, as longtime art professor Newton Wells declared soon after the building opened, "the spirit of the mighty past."

Professors receive high honors for teaching, service, and research The College of LAS held ceremonies NEWS FROM LAS

10 LAS alumni and students part of record-matching Fulbright list Ten students and young alumni from the College of LAS were offered Fulbright grants to pursue international education, research, and teaching experiences around the globe. They include Amanda Oversen, Folashade Olumola, Damir Vucicevic, Janani Comar, Ksenia Polyarskaya, Carolina Bieri, Aeriel Burtley, Jan Balan, Owen MacDonald, and Sophia Ebel. They were among 16 students and alumni from the U of I offered grants through the program, which matches the highest number selected in the university’s history.

last fall in honor of Christopher Freeburg, professor of English, who was named the John A. and Grace W. Nicholson Professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and Carla Cáceres, director of the School of Integrative Biology, who was named the G. William Arends

Professor in Integrative Biology.

U of I launches interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees in data science

The College of LAS is helping offer a new series of interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees in data science which will prepare Illinois students to lead society’s digital transformation. The university began accepting applications for the Fall 2023 admissions cycle in Astronomy +

Data Science (offered by the College of LAS), Accountancy + Data Science and Finance + Data Science (Gies College of Business), and Information Sciences + Data Science (School of Information Sciences [iSchool]).

Clockwise from upper left: Amanda Oversen, Folashade Olumola, Damir Vucicevic, Janani Comar, Ksenia Polyarskaya, Carolina Bieri, Aeriel Burtley, Jan Balan, Owen MacDonald, and Sophia Ebel.

Turning over a new leaf When a leaky fountain in the Psychology Building atrium was more serious than expected, the project turned into a symbolic makeover for the popular spot. Workers overhauled the original plantscape with more than 360 new plants and other upgrades. “We are getting back to a new normal after the pandemic and we have a brand new vista in our atrium,” said Diane Beck, interim head of the Department of Psychology. “We are looking forward to enjoying this space for years to come.”

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Department of Mathematics collaborates with Spurlock Museum to preserve math models Faced with the question of what to do with hundreds of iconic math models during the renovation of Altgeld Hall, the Department of Mathematics created a plan to preserve some of them and put the items back on display when the renovation is complete. Faculty members and students will work together to carefully examine the models and determine which ones they want to keep. They will be assisted by Christa Deacy-Quinn, senior collections manager at Spurlock Museum.

Ralph Nuzzo named Kavli Prize Laureate in Nanoscience

New database catalogs police shootings in Illinois to improve accountability

Ralph Nuzzo, G.L. Clark Professor Emeritus of Analytical Chemistry at Illinois and professor emeritus of chemistry, is one of four recipients of the 2022 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience. The prize honored four pioneers whose work transformed surface

science and led to applications shaping our daily lives in areas from medical diagnostics to semiconductor devices. The scientists, including Nuzzo, created molecular-scale coatings for surfaces which enable unprecedented control and engineering of surface properties.

A gift for advanced learning and scholarship Martin Camargo grew up on the East Coast, but a fellowship drew him to U of I for graduate school. That’s why, years later,

Campus researchers, including those at the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research, have developed a statewide registry on the use of lethal force by police officers in Illinois to improve accountability and rebuild the public perception of law enforcement. The Systematic Policing Oversight Through Lethal-Force Incident Tracking Environment project, called “SPOTLITE,” identified more than twice as many police- involved shooting incidents than previously reported by the Illinois State Police. U of I student Sruthi Navneetha, part of SPOTLITE’s student research team, compiles data and scans news articles for police uses of lethal force.

the emeritus professor of English at U of I and his wife, Sandy, a retired lecturer, have made a deferred gift commitment for graduate student fellowships in the Department of English. “I got the tools for my career here, and it’s a career that I’ve loved,” said Camargo, who retired in 2021. “I want to help future graduate students earn their degrees without being burdened by debt.”

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Summer learning, from math to Arabic Two summer youth outreach programs, the Summer Illinois Mathematics Camp (SIM) and Arabic High School Program returned to their in-person format after two years of virtual meeting. The SIM Camp, hosted by the Department of Mathematics, taught college level math concepts. Students in the Arabic High School program chatted with a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, among other activities. “The feedback from parents is something that has kept us going,” said Eman Saadah, teaching associate professor and director of the Less Commonly Taught Languages Program in the Department of Linguistics. “They tell us that their kids are better when they come home.”

Milestone moment for medieval studies The Program in Medieval Studies is no stranger to hosting lively and

interesting events, from 24-hour readings of Dante’s “Inferno” to Medieval Movie Knights. It recently celebrated a particularly significant one: its 20th anniversary. Where did this small but spirited and groundbreaking program come from? To be precise, although the program was formally established in 2001, medieval studies has been a field of research and instruction at the U of I since the late 1800s.

Gender and women’s studies supports unique postdoctoral role Sawyer Kemp has completed

their role as the inaugural Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Transgender Studies, the first fellowship of its kind in the country. This

standing position was created with support from the chancellor’s office. “I saw this as an opportunity for our department and campus to really be a leader in centering this set of ethical, political, and methodological questions that trans studies brings to the forefront,” said Mimi Thi Nguyen, chair of the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies.

High school students enrolled in Camp Epsilon at the Summer Illinois Mathematics Camp solve problems in Altgeld Hall.

The lessons of opportunity If you drove past Zahnd Park in Champaign before the fall football season, you would have seen Tailon Leitzsey leading a small army of kids through a series of drills. The communication and management major started the free, day-long, Orange and Blue football camp last year, and it’s been a success. Leitzsey, a defensive back who joined the Fighting Illini as a walk- on and earned a scholarship, created the camp to give kids an opportunity to play the game around people who could be positive influences.

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In remembrance of the professor-coach You can’t quite say that Stephen (Steve) Douglas did it all, but he came closer than a lot of people. His accomplishments include: NCAA basketball player in the Final Four, coach of the Malaysian national women’s basketball team, and first women’s basketball coach at U of I. Douglas also served as a professor of political science for 35 years before retiring in 2000. He passed away surrounded by family on April 22, 2022, at age 83. Steve Douglas, at right, during his playing days at Kansas State University. (Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics.)

Writing for discovery “Writing for Discovery: Self, Public, and Community,” a new pilot course offered through the Odyssey Project, a free college program at the U of I, was taught last summer by Ángel García, professor of English, poet, and author of award- winning “Teeth Never Sleep.” He said the class allowed him to engage the community in a new way. “There are not many other opportunities I’ve had to work with non-traditional students,” he said, “and it was truly a blessing to learn from the students.”

Illinois Global Institute centers receive almost $13.2 million in Title VI funding Six area and global studies centers within the Illinois Global Institute will receive almost $13.2 million in

competitive Title VI federal grants during the next four years to advance educational opportunities, programming, and public engagement. The University of Illinois was one of this year’s top Title VI funding recipients in the country. Part of the funding will come from the centers’ designation as Title VI National Resource Centers by the U.S. Department of Education, and the centers will also receive Foreign Language and Area Studies grants.

Danyla Nash takes part in a poetry reading during the writing course. (Photo courtesy of Humanities Research Institute.)

Online bachelor’s degree completion program moves forward A new Bachelor of Liberal Studies program will provide an opportunity for students who have started, but not completed, a four-year undergraduate degree to complete their studies online. The fully online and non-residential program will offer flexibility in course scheduling along with reduced cost and time to completion. The program recently received funding from the U of I’s Investment for Growth program and is anticipated to begin in spring or summer 2024.

So much to share—so little space. For more about these LAS news stories and others please visit our website.

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What’s a typical workday like? I wake early and compose a rough plan for the day while caffeinating and checking the news. However, it can’t be too rigid because my day can, and often does, change in an instant: I might be invited at short notice to interview with the media or need to jump on a call with a new or existing client, but other times I will throw the plan out the window because the writing is going well. Alumna explores the technologies intended to make life easier Stephanie Hare (BA, ‘97, French)— an independent researcher, broadcaster, and author—has found non-stop learning to be the connection in her day-to-day. In her first book, released in 2022, “Technology Is Not Neutral: A Short Guide to Technology Ethics,” Hare applies expertise in history, technology, and political science to consider the ethical problems of new technologies that are intended to make life easier.

Stephanie Hare

What about college best prepared you for your life and career? An open-mindedness towards approaching any subject, regardless of whether it is related to my specialism or strengths. How did your major prepare you? Thanks to UIUC’s excellent professors and the junior year abroad program at the Sorbonne in Paris, I graduated with strong language skills and a solid base of cultural knowledge that have allowed me to work well in France and with French speakers. This didn’t just prepare me for my career; it changed my life.

By Kayleigh Rahn

Check out more alumni profiles

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Maria Todorova honored for a career dedicated to understanding history and culture

Eurasian Studies, a scholarly association that aligns with her work at the intersections of modern Balkan, Ottoman, and European social and cultural history. Her 1997 book, “Imagining the Balkans,” examines her theory. “When the Yugoslav war happened (1991-2001), the stereotypes of irrational, aggressive, intolerant, barbarian, savage, semi- developed, semi-civilized, semi-oriental countries began floating as explanations for the war,” Todorova said. “I knew the literature about how the Balkans were perceived throughout the ages. What I was able to show was that these stereotypes, which journalists attempted to explain as ‘ancient hatreds,’ had crystallized relatively recently—at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.” Has Balkanism subsided? “With the branching out of the European Union, the Balkans, with the exception of the newly devised area of the ‘Western Balkans,’ are effectively part of Europe,” Todorova said. “The Balkanist rhetoric no longer serves power politics, although it is there, conveniently submerged but readily at hand. It is like claiming racism does not exist because one does not use the N-word.” She added: “I am pleasantly surprised that, to this day, young people are writing to me, from all over the world. ‘Oh, I read your book. I’m proud now that I am from the Balkans.’ There is something emancipatory in what I wrote. Even young people who left the region in the 1990s feel the stereotype, and they can see

You may have heard the term “Balkanism.” It was coined by Maria Todorova, Edward William & Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor Emerita at Illinois, as a way to explain how the Balkan region in Southeastern Europe is perceived as Europe’s “other”—an area that is seen to exemplify European backwardness and political unrest. Countries that were once part

of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia, are now constructed as less than a part of “civilized” Europe. Todorova’s examinations of these dynamics are among the reasons she was recently one of only seven historians nationwide elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of the oldest honor societies in the nation. She also received the Distinguished Contributions to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Award, which she terms a lifetime achievement award from the Association for Slavic, East European, and

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Stari Most, also known as Mostar Bridge, in Bosnia and Herzegovina (iStock photo).

“The book shows the emancipatory history of socialism through various historical approaches,” Todorova said. “I hope to have shown that scales of analysis require different methods and are based on different sources, and that the different scales of observation are all legitimate.”

that they can deconstruct this stereotype. They are not ashamed of their background. This is liberating.”

Her scholarly output is immense, covering Ottoman, modern Balkan, and imperial Russian history.

I chose history because I loved literature and mathematics,” Todorova said. “I felt that historical analysis would envelope both. I was trained as an Ottomanist, and I wanted to bring in quantitative methods.

Although she retired from Illinois in 2021, Todorova still has graduate students and serves on committees. She has contributed to what is

considered one of the strongest programs in Southeastern Europe globally. Her graduate students form what is often referred to as the “Todorova school” and work in academic institutions such as the Max Planck Institute, Boston College, UCLA, The Ohio State University, College of William & Mary, European University Institute, the University College London, the University of Illinois, the University of Groningen, and the University of Pittsburgh. Her home in Urbana became a favorite destination of the University’s East European Reading Group. Todorova’s retirement does not mean that her prodigious output has ended. “I’m toying with the idea of yet another project on Balkan history,” she said.

Her book “Balkan Family Structure and the European Pattern” (1993), utilized demographic techniques to examine a Balkan family formation, the zadruga, undermining Western stereotypes of the European family. Her latest book, “The Lost World of Socialists at Europe’s Margins: Imagining Utopia, 1870s–1920s” (2020), looks at the “golden age” of the socialist idea through the lens of the Bulgarian socialist movement in the late 19th century. “I was working on this book while a fellow at the Remarque Institute on 5th Avenue in New York,” she said. “I found it interesting to write about socialism from 5th Avenue.” By examining “memoir documents” of early socialists, she was able to produce a historical ethnography that took into account the problem of generalized ideological descriptions that rely on the silencing and erasure of peripheral movements.

By Maeve Reilly

To check out a running list of award-winning LAS faculty members, visit our website.

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The Illinois Neurobehavioral Assessment Laboratory becomes a well-respected community resource for addressing psychological issues

L aunching any new enterprise is difficult. Launching it in a pandemic is even harder. Just ask Kathryn Leskis , clinical director of the Illinois Neurobehavioral Assessment Laboratory. The lab, which offers a wide range of psychological testing and evaluation, saw its first client at the end of 2019, and was on track to have a great full first year. Then COVID-19 hit, and the entire world shut down. “It was at that point we knew we should do something,” said Leskis.

explained Leskis. We wanted people to think about assessment as a way to better understand themselves and their loved ones. So that’s why we came up with digital screenings.” These simple, online tools provide screening for common issues like ADHD and dyslexia, although they’re not designed to be a substitute for comprehensive testing. “Basically,” said Leskis, “it’s a first step for those who are just starting to wonder whether these things are an issue for themselves or their child.” If they are, INBAL can follow up with a full slate of services including further assessment, testing, and consultation. To introduce themselves to the world, INBAL provided the digital screenings free for a limited time. The idea proved to be a hit. Within a week, their inbox was flooded with inquiries, and

Fortunately, they already had a great idea in the works.

“We wanted to offer easily accessible assessment services to everyone, not just those who require comprehensive services after meeting criteria for medical necessity,”

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(From left) Maya Marder, Joy Akindulureni, Kathryn Leskis, Crystal Newman, and Katie Duitsman work for the Illinois Neurobehavioral Assessment Laboratory. (Photo by Carly Conway)

INBAL can also help researchers refine various aspects of their study. For example, if someone is doing a study of anxiety and they believe it might impact working memory, INBAL can help identify the best way to test that. The goal was to make the lab both a sponsor of and an advocate for cutting-edge research. Currently funded projects aim to measure and assess critical qualities necessary for the advancement of pioneering and ethical science and involve collaboration with domestic and international partners such as the National Center for Principled Leadership and Research Ethics (NCPRE),

by mid-December 2020, 90 clients had completed nearly 225 screenings. It was an early display of innovation from a university initiative that was designed to be different from day one. For starters, INBAL is located in a modern suite in the M2 building downtown Champaign, with lots of natural light and parking. And it owes its genesis to a new campus initiative called the Investment for Growth Program, which, in fiscal year

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the NOMIS Foundation.

We wanted to bring our tools to people who didn’t necessarily have them and support research on campus by helping them in whatever way we could.

2019, provided several million dollars to help a number of

“There’s also a wonderful program based in Michigan called Mood Lifters, which is a peer-led psychological treatment program for

innovative projects get off the ground.

In addition to Leskis, the current INBAL staff includes Crystal Newman , supervising clinical psychologist; Katie Duitsman , clinical psychometrist; as well as a few graduate student clinicians. It’s a relatively small team, but they hope to expand in the near future. The lab is the brainchild of three different faculty members from the Department of Psychology at Illinois: Wendy Heller , executive associate dean for social and behavioral sciences in the College of LAS;

wellbeing, depression, and anxiety,” said Heller. The program was founded by LAS alumna Patty Deldin (MA, ’90; PhD, ’96, psychology), and INBAL is hoping to bring it to the local community. All of those innovations could change the future of clinical analysis. But Leskis joined the program because she wanted to make a difference in the community, here and now. That passion was born out of her experience in the private sector. For more than a decade, she worked in healthcare, where she often saw a gap between those who needed assessment and those who were able to receive it. “A lot of managed healthcare companies are becoming increasingly restrictive about their psychological testing policies,” said Leskis. This means that those needing testing often face a long list of preauthorization requirements and other barriers that make it difficult to obtain. INBAL provides another option for those needing help, and a powerful resource for the organizations serving them. Jeanne Kramer , director of The Autism Program at the University of Illinois, is one of those who relies on INBAL’s clinical expertise. “What makes it beneficial is

Neal Cohen , then director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute; and Brent Roberts , who directed the Center for Social and Behavioral Science. All of them believed that INBAL could serve an important role, advancing research at the university while making clinical assessment more readily available to the community. “The three of us co-wrote the proposal, which was really the culmination of many conversations about a vision to share the unique expertise coming out of our various fields with the community and the rest of campus,” said Heller. “We wanted to bring our tools to people who didn’t necessarily have them and support research on campus by helping them in whatever way we could. So, you could, for example, contract with us to administer tests of depression or anxiety or some other aspect of personality or behavior that you might not know how to measure.”

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the complete neurobehavioral assessment that comes along with the autism assessment,” said Kramer. “When we have a child come to us who has a complex presentation, which most people on the spectrum do, Dr. Leskis is very gifted in assessing all the different aspects of cognition and focusing in on why we’re seeing the behaviors we’re seeing.” Unfortunately, those issues aren’t just restricted to autism. For 50 years, The Reading Group has helped both children and adults overcome the challenges of dyslexia and other learning disabilities. And every day, they see new

said Heller, explaining that, all too often, exciting campus initiatives are based on temporary grants or faculty that leave, giving them a transitory nature. “The more help they are to the community, the more painful it is when they disappear,” said Heller. Which is why INBAL is actively seeking contracts with local schools and campus units to ensure that it continues to serve the community and university for many years to come.

relationship.” Marder said it’s also helpful to see how a small clinic is run from an administrative standpoint.

“It’s a good learning environment from many different angles,” she said.

Future clinicians like Marder will be pivotal to organizations like The Reading Group, who are on the frontlines of a mental health crisis that’s only been made worse by a global pandemic. “I wish this community at large understood the criticality of the number of people that really and truly need help,” said Jones, adding that he’s seen children so

INBAL has already secured a contract with U of I’s Department of Intercollegiate

I’m there from start to finish with every client, which allows me a great opportunity to understand the flow of the clinical relationship.

clients arriving with a broad range of needs.

“Sometimes the issues are so challenging from a psychological standpoint that we simply can’t handle it here,” said Jim Jones , executive director of the local not-for-profit.

Maya Marder

traumatized by their learning disabilities and lack of support that they have to be coaxed out from underneath the table before their lesson can begin. And there’s only one thing that can be done to change that. “You have to make sure that you’ve got qualified people—and enough qualified people to provide the services that we need.” Which is exactly what INBAL is hoping to do. For now, however, Jones says he’s very glad to have Leskis and the rest of her team available with their expert help whenever it’s needed. “Without this level of service, I don’t know where we’d be sending people, if you want to know the truth.” By John Turner

Without INBAL, those cases would have to be referred to Chicago or St. Louis. But thanks to this innovative partnership between the university and the local community, they’re available just a few minutes from his office. “That’s invaluable,” said Jones, adding that parents often return to thank him for the assessment their children received. Heller hopes to make that scenario permanent. “We’re trying to create a sustainable organization with an actual footprint in the community,”

Athletics to help student athletes with a wide range of needs. The benefits go both ways, with the arrangement also providing an excellent opportunity for grad students looking to develop their diagnostic skills in the real world. Psychology students like Maya Marder are required to complete an internship as part of their graduate training.

“INBAL does a great job of providing opportunities,” said Marder, who’s

assistantship at INBAL will make her more competitive in the application process. “I’m there from start to finish with every client, which allows me a great opportunity to understand the flow of the clinical

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LAS Experts

Exploring the genetic switchboard of plants

How can we help our crops survive in an increasingly unpredictable environment? Amy Marshall-Colon, a professor of plant biology at the U of I, thinks that by looking into gene structures, scientists can help plants help themselves.

What is your area of expertise? I study the molecular mechanisms that contribute to crop resilience to climate change using systems biology and mathematical modeling. I’m really interested in understanding what causes genes to turn on and off, like switches, in response to signals from the environment. If we can figure out that complex switchboard inside of the plant, we might be able to act as operators and leverage their natural mechanisms to help them keep pace with our rapidly changing climate. What impact will your work have on your field and the community? Most of the projects I work on are collaborative, and I believe that all the small things each of us work on will come together to make a more

significant contribution to the field and the community. All of my collaborative projects are aiming to create crop ideotypes, or ideal plants, that can thrive under stressful environments. Some of our discoveries may eventually be translated into crops that growers want to grow, and I hope that they prevent yield loss under future climates.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

My favorite part of teaching is to hear from a student that something I taught them is helping them in their own research. By Dave Evensen

For more faculty profiles, visit our website.

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Big fang theory Researchers have created a model that can calculate the energetics involved when one organism stabs another with its fangs, thorns, spines or other puncturing parts. The model will help scientists and engineers compare many types of biological puncturing tools and develop new systems to efficiently pierce materials or resist being pierced. “The idea behind this was to come up with a quantitative framework for comparing a variety of biological puncture systems with each other,” said Philip Anderson , a professor of evolution, ecology, and behavior.

Illinois astronomers help capture first image of Milky Way’s black hole A team of U of I researchers led by astronomy and physics professor Charles Gammie is part of a large international collaboration that unveiled the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This result provides evidence that the object is indeed a black hole and yields valuable clues about the workings of such giants, which researchers think reside at the center of most galaxies. Researchers produced the image using observations from a worldwide network of radio telescopes.

Illinois researchers, from left, Ben Prather, Vedant Ketan Dhruv, Michi Baubock, professor Charles Gammie, David Lee, Nicholas Conroy and Abhishek Vidyadhar Joshi. (Photo by Heather Coit.)

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Roman aqueducts help researchers learn about anti-gravity growth ripples Waters originating from the Apennine Mountains flowed through ancient Rome’s Anio Novus aqueduct and left a detailed record of past hydraulic conditions. Two studies are the first to document the occurrence of anti-gravity growth ripples and establish that these features lend clues to the history of ancient water conveyance and storage systems. A team led by geology professor Bruce Fouke posits that the Anio Novus travertine crystals precipitated, grew, and accumulated in the flowing water of the aqueduct—independent of the forces of gravity and aided by microbial colonies—to form what they call “travertine crystal growth ripples.”

Staring at yourself during video chats may worsen your mood A new study finds that the more a person stares at themself while talking with a partner in an online chat, the more their mood degrades over the course of the conversation. Alcohol use appears to worsen the problem. Reported in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the findings, produced by doctoral student Talia Arliss and psychology professor Catharine Fairbairn , point to a potentially problematic role of online meeting platforms in exacerbating psychological problems like anxiety and depression.

COVID-19 virus spike protein flexibility improved by human cell’s own modifications When the coronavirus causing COVID-19 infects human cells, the cell’s protein-processing machinery makes modifications to the spike protein that render it more flexible and mobile, which could increase its ability to infect other cells and to evade antibodies. The researchers, including biochemistry professor Emad Tajkhorshid , postdoctoral researcher Karan Kapoo r, and graduate student Tianle Chen , said this is the first study to present such a detailed picture of the protein that plays a key role in COVID-19 infection and immunity.

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The cave with an ancient tooth of a Denosivan girl was found on P’ou Loi Mountain in northern Laos. (Photo by Fabrice Demeter).

U of I to provide key insight for $25 million climate science study The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a team of academic and community leaders—including the U of I—$25 million over five years to advance urban climate science. The U of I team, led by Steve Nesbitt , associate head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, along with atmospheric sciences professors Deanna Hence and Karen Kosiba and civil and environmental engineering professor Marcelo Garcia , will contribute key observational data and modeling of extreme weather in Chicago.

Ancient tooth helps define a chapter in human history

Professor of anthropology Laura Shackelford and her colleagues were digging for fossils in northern Laos in 2018 when they discovered the tooth of a Denosivan girl who lived some 131,000 to 164,000 years ago. “It gives some idea of the adaptability of the Denisovans,” Shackelford said, of the extinct hominin species. “They lived in the cold arctic temperatures of Siberia… and now we know they were also living in the tropics of Southeast Asia… Denisovans could adapt to extreme environmental conditions.”

Scientists create upcycling process to reduce greenhouse gas emissions Scientists from the U of I, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Dow have developed a breakthrough process to transform the most widely produced plastic (polyethylene) into the second- most widely produced plastic, polypropylene (PP), which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Now we have proved that it can be done experimentally in a way that is scalable and potentially applicable to current industry demands,” said co-lead author Damien Guironnet , a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Damien Guironnet (left) and graduate students Nicholas Wang and Vanessa DaSilva, demonstrated a new scalable process that can upcycle plastics. (Photo by Heather Coit.)

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Books in LAS “Faith in Exposure: Privacy and Secularism in the Nineteenth-Century United States,” by Justine Murison , professor of English, shows how, over the course of the 19th century, our culture’s understanding of privacy both underpinned thinking about sexual and reproductive rights but also undermined them in the name of religious freedom. (University of Pennsylvania Press) “People of the Ecotone: Environment and Indigenous Power at the Center of Early America,” by Robert Morrissey , professor of history, weaves together a history of Native peoples with a history of an ecotone to tell a new story about the roots of the Fox Wars, among the most transformative and misunderstood events of early American history. (University of Washington Press) “Rare Stuff,” by Brett Ashley Kaplan , professor of comparative and world literature, takes readers on a multilayered, mysterious journey through a series of interlocking clues. An intriguing search for a missing person moves through real and magically real universes in New York, Chicago, and glass houses under the sea constructed by Yiddish-speaking whales desperate to save our endangered planet. (Spuyten Duyvil) Sultan, Caliph, and the Renewer of the Faith: Aḥmad Lobbo, the Tārīkh al-fattāsh and the Making of an Islamic State in West Africa,” by Mauro Nobili, professor of history, examines and challenges existing theories on the Tārīkh al-fattāsh, arguing that much of what we have presumed about this important source for the history of pre-colonial West Africa is deeply flawed. Making extensive use of previously unpublished Arabic sources, Nobili demonstrates that the chronicle was in fact written in the 19th century by a Fulani scholar. (Cambridge University Press)

Study explores sentiments of people who oppose COVID-19 vaccinations Tim F. Liao , a professor of sociology, analyzed the content of images with anti-vaccination themes that were published online by news media on Nov. 4, 2022, the day that President Joseph Biden announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates for larger businesses. Liao located and collected images containing text with the keywords “anti-vaccine,” “protest,” “U.S.,” and “America” and found that three major themes emerged: Support for individual freedom/rights, opposition to government control, and anti-science misinformation or disinformation.

“Quantitative Social Science: An Introduction in tidyverse,”

by Kosuke Imai and Nora Webb Williams, a professor of political science, is a practical introduction to data analysis and statistics in the social sciences and allied fields, including business, economics, education, political science, psychology, sociology, public policy, and data science. (Princeton University Press)

Read more about research and scholarship in the College of LAS

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First-generation students rely on determination, campus resources, and loved ones to succeed at college

In 2022, the University of by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and The Suder Foundation, for its efforts to improve access to students who are among the first in their families to attend college. Illinois was named a First- gen Forward institution

on campus and pursuing a degree. A make or break moment Itzel Rivera is soon to be the first person in her extended family to graduate from college. Given that neither of her parents attended school past the sixth grade, her attendance at the University of Illinois was unlikely.

their families at home. Realizing what they missed, they made education a priority for Rivera and her two sisters and brother. That’s why, after living most of her life in California, she moved to the Midwest for college. She attended Black Hawk College in Moline, Illinois, where a professor inspired her to major in political science when she transferred to the University of Illinois. She is also minoring in anthropology and Latina/Latino studies. While she was determined to work hard, Rivera said that coming from a different culture made some things more difficult.

Rivera’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico before she was born. Both of them had to leave

A large number of those efforts occur at the College of LAS, which currently enrolls roughly 1,500 first-generation students. We asked a few of them to share their stories about arriving

I tzel

school early to help

16 / Spring 2023

For example, she had no idea the importance of networking for success in college and after graduation. She was able to grasp these things with help from people at the university, however, and she is happy with the way things turned out. “It means a lot to my parents, but I think it means a lot more to me,” Rivera said. “They immigrated to this country, they didn't know the language, they didn't know how to do anything, but they pushed through barriers. I feel like it was up to me to either continue that momentum or break from it. And I'm proud of myself for finishing college.” A new country, a new school, and a new major On her first day of classes at the University of Illinois, Judy Chiang didn’t know what to expect, so she came prepared. She read and copied the lecture notes before class and showed up 30 minutes early to make sure she got a seat. She’d soon learn that she didn’t need to arrive quite that early—but that spirit of preparation has made her college career rewarding so far.

pursue mathematics instead. Academic advisors, coaches at the Career Center, and teaching assistants helped her switch majors. A math professor gave her meaningful words of encouragement. Now a graduating senior, Chiang pursues mathematics wholeheartedly, partaking in research through the Illinois Geometry Lab and the Illinois Combinatorics Lab. She is also a volunteer for the Association of Women in Math and has joined two research projects over the past two summers: the MIT Summer Geometry Institute and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Combinatorics and Algebra REU. She reflects on the people who helped her during her freshman year, including her residential assistant in University Housing and staff in the Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA). The help she received was inspiring, and now Chiang is a residential advisor. She’s also a student ambassador for OMSA, where she organized an academic major information session during the COVID-19 pandemic. She wants to someday become a math professor. “There are so many resources and places for me to get involved and achieve what I would like to do,” Chiang said. A family accomplishment At one point in Gina Jagminas’ life, just leaving home to live somewhere two hours away was a big deal. Leaving home to attend the University of Illinois was momentous. Jagminas was raised in the same house where her mother was raised, which is the same house where her grandmother was raised. No one in her immediate family has graduated from college. Now a junior studying history, Jagminas

is forging a new path. There have been some revelations along the way.

“I was just a little surprised that a lot of people had things— or it seemed like they had things—figured

out more than I did,” Jagminas said of her impressions upon arriving at college. “It wasn't, necessarily, a bad thing. I like the fluidity that I went in with.” Fortunately, her brother, who attended college for a year, and her parents were heavily involved in her process of choosing a school and a major. As a result, today her family shares her feeling of success and perseverance. Her attendance at the University of Illinois has felt like a family accomplishment. “Every time they come down to visit, they wear their Illinois gear, their sweatshirts, their t-shirts, and they'll post on Facebook too,” Jagminas said. “There's a sense of pride that comes with being (an alumna or alumnus) and your kid goes here, but my parents have been able to adopt that because I go here. They consider themselves Illini by proxy.” “I’m still surprised by myself” When Jason Melland started college, he was, in his own words, “completely blind.” Though he came from a big family in the Chicago suburbs, none of them had chosen to attend college. In high school, Melland struggled in honors classes and started looking at colleges too late to apply to a four-year university. So when he made the dean’s list at Moraine Valley Community College,

Chiang, a native of Taiwan and the

first in her family to attend college, adapted to not only a new country when


she came to Urbana- Champaign, but university life itself. She’s close to her mother, who is very supportive, Chiang said, but she couldn’t help with academic-related questions. For that, Chiang learned to rely upon campus resources. Chiang originally majored in Earth, society, and environmental sustainability, but she decided to


Group image, from left: Jason Melland, Judy Chiang, Maya Moutry, Itzel Rivera, and Gina Jagminas are some of the roughly 1,500 first-generation students in the College of LAS. The University of Illinois has been recognized for improving access to students who are among the first in their families to attend college. (Photos by Carly Conway.)

The Quadrangle / 17

which he attended before transferring to the University of Illinois, he was happily surprised. “I was like, holy cow,” said Melland, now a senior in Earth, society, and environmental sciences. “I didn't believe I could do it myself. Even coming here to the University of Illinois and taking these extremely hard classes compared to my community college classes, I’m still having success.” Melland credits his success to a new sense of responsibility that’s he’s gained as a college student and to his advisors at both Moraine Valley and the University of Illinois. They’ve helped him find opportunities for growth. Now, Melland’s success has inspired his younger cousins, who have begun to see him in a different light. A few have even asked for his help to follow in his footsteps. That, Melland admits, makes him feel pretty good. “If I went back in time and told my high school self what I've already accomplished, I'd be like, ‘Nah, you're crazy, get out of here, you're lying,’” Melland said. “I’m still surprised by myself every day, and honestly completely shocked by the opportunities that come my way.” The flower of the future As a child, Maya Moutry gained a respect for education from her mother, who’d tell her, “Knowledge is power. If it’s at your fingertips, why not take advantage of it?”

College and university offer extensive support for first-generation students There are several avenues of support in the College of LAS for first-generation students, including the LAS Access and Achievement Program (AAP) . Kristy Valentin, director of AAP, said that some 55 percent of students in the program identify as first generation, and through the program they have access to various retention and enrichment services to help navigate the University of Illinois. The college also offers transition classes for students, including transfer students who make up a significant number of the first-generation students in LAS. The university’s Student Success, Inclusion & Belonging office has also created a new first-generation student program.

college. With a 4.63 grade point average in high school, she had no shortage of options (she was accepted at 26 schools) but being the first in her family to go to a university was still daunting.

Along the way, she learned that the University of Illinois offers many resources and networking opportunities.

I would say the biggest challenge that I’m dealing with, being a first-generation student, is just learning how to learn in college, said Moutry.

Moutry, now a psychology major on a pre-med track, receives support from her father, younger sister, and close friends, but she had to learn about college life on her own. To do that, she became involved. Moutry became a member of several registered student organizations (RSOs), including Black Business Network and Wishmakers. She and five other African American students started a student organization called The CommU.N.I.T.Y., and Moutry also started a podcast to help students talk about their college experiences.

“You can literally grow into anything,” Moutry said. “I think of college as the soil of your life. It’s really what you use, and it's your foundation. When you meet the professors and when you go to RSOs and you meet new friends, those are the rain and sunshine and nutrients that you need to grow. And the flower is your future. That’s what I really feel like college is.”

Her mother passed away last year, leaving Moutry more determined than ever to attend

By Christian Jones, Olivia Vamos, and Dave Evensen

18 / Spring 2023

Venetria K. Patton has been busy in her second year as Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. We asked her about it.

What’s been your favorite thing to work on during the 2022-23 academic year? It’s hard to pick just one, especially considering the size and diversity of the College of LAS. I’m still enjoying getting to know everyone through our collegewide open houses, faculty receptions, staff meet-and-greets, and meetings with students, including my favorite “Cookies with the Dean” event. I’m also excited about the new Marjorie Roberts Professorships which we hope to fill this spring with some of our amazing faculty. These professorships are a great way to recognize our talented faculty while also setting them up for national honors. What are some areas of progress in LAS during the past year? Much progress has come in enhancing the student experience. We opened the Paul M. Lisnek LAS Hub, supported by a gift from Paul M. Lisnek (BA, '80; MA, '80; PhD, '86, speech

communication; BA, '80, political science; JD, '83), which provides students with easy access to college advisors and peer mentors who can help them connect with opportunities. We’re also creating more access for non-traditional students with the newly funded Bachelor of Liberal Studies program. This is an online program, scheduled to begin in 2024, for students who started, but have not completed, a four-year undergraduate degree. It will offer flexibility and reduce the costs and time necessary to earn a degree. What are some goals for the next year? We want to continue working hard to improve access to LAS through scholarship programs like the Lincoln Scholars Initiative. We also have plans to help develop teaching methods, and of course we’re looking forward to significant progress on the Altgeld and Illini Hall Project and other infrastructure projects. By Dave Evensen

Submit a question for Dean Patton, and she may answer it in the next magazine.

The Quadrangle / 19

Landmark. In 2020, the University listed the Observatory as one of several campus buildings in need of roof renovations, and water infiltration also has been an issue. It was members of the Friends of the Observatory who first flagged the Save America’s Treasures program as a potential way to fund much-needed work on the Observatory. Administered by the National Parks Service, the program provides grants to support preservation of significant properties and collections that are connected to the nation’s heritage. LAS administrators, the Department of Astronomy, and University Facilities & Services pulled together to make a case for the Observatory as a worthy project. In fall 2022 the university was awarded a $500,000 Save America’s Treasures grant, which will be matched by an additional $500,000 from the campus deferred maintenance fund, providing a total of $1 million for critical renovations to the Observatory. Derek Fultz, senior director of facilities and planning for the College of LAS, said the timeline and scope of the work are still being determined, but he hopes to New projects, planning, and deep appreciation keep the Observatory looking upward

On a typical day, thousands of students, faculty, and staff crisscross campus, hustling from one class, project, meeting, and building to another. During daylight hours, crowds flow in and out of major destinations like Lincoln Hall, the Union, and the Library. It’s only when the sun sets and the sky darkens that the Observatory becomes a hub of activity. While the building is no longer used for research, it still plays a vital role in learning and serves as a popular destination for lovers of astronomy. One crisp night early in October, dozens of undergraduate students streamed in to perform observations for their Introduction to Astronomy course using the Observatory’s original 12-inch Brashear refracting telescope, installed in 1896, while students in an advanced lab class used more modern instruments set up behind the building. A few days earlier, The Astronomical Society held an open house, attended by about 300 people who came to view Jupiter at opposition, the point at which the planet is directly opposite the Sun from the perspective of Earth. That night Jupiter and Earth were

closer than they had been in 59 years, and the skies were clear.

“We had a gorgeous view of the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn,” said Bryan Dunne, professor of astronomy and director of the Observatory. “The Observatory was hopping! If you happen by in the day, you might think it’s dead, but come by at night. You'll see how active the place can be.” Michael Svec (BS, ’88, physics), a professor of education at Furman University and active member of The Friends of the University of Illinois Observatory, credits the human scale of the Observatory and its telescope for that popularity. “The telescope was designed for the human hand and the human eye,” he said. “Most modern telescopes are designed for the digital eye. It’s well designed for learning, because the student actually interacts with the universe through their senses, not through the computer screen.” Preserving that experience for students and visitors means preserving the Observatory structure, no small challenge for the 127-year-old National Historic

20 / Spring 2023

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