IMSAloquium 2023: Illinois’ Best and Brightest Continue the Tradition

A picture of IMSAloqium | Source: IMSA Facebook

This year’s IMSAloquium featured an impressive amount of student engagement, with over 190 students and 150 different projects from SIRs (Student Inquiry and Research projects, a research opportunity for IMSA students), internships, and independent studies. Students presented on topics such as historical trends, particle physics at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the effectiveness of “dust defender” cards to more effectively scan for COVID, and much more. The Acronym had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Trainor from the SIR office about how this year’s IMSAloquium went as compared to previous years, and how things may change in the future. Also, if you missed IMSAloquium or want to look at what topics students presented on, you can do so by looking at the IMSA DigitalCommons. 

According to Dr. Trainor, one of the most significant changes from last year’s IMSAloquium was the increase in the number of presentations, with students choosing to pursue individual instead of group SIRs and internships. Dr. Trainor attributed this change to students pursuing more unique interests. 

IMSAloquium 2023 consisted of three different virtual (Zoom) morning sessions running from 8:30 to 11:55 AM, a keynote address from alumnus Dr. Angel Alvarez, and a poster session in the main gym from 1:40 to 3:10 PM. The Zoom presentations, while not offering as much of an interactive experience as the in-person poster presentations may have, allowed students’ families and mentors for their projects to more easily attend.

During his keynote address, Dr. Alvarez spoke about his experiences with coming to IMSA from the Chicago Public Schools system, and the new opportunities he had to pursue his own research. He explained some of his past research, including research conducted as an IMSA student. One of Dr. Alvarez’s research topics was stem cell pluripotency (ability of stem cells to differentiate into different varieties of cells) and its relation to cancer biology, and he continues his research as the director of Northwestern University’s Stem Cell Core. He also reflected on the difficulties and biases that marginalized groups face while working towards becoming scientists and noted the often harsh realities of the scientific community, such as the cutthroat nature of procuring grants for research. Despite the difficulty of scientific research and the hard work it requires, he ultimately encouraged IMSA students to persevere through these difficulties and take advantage of the excellent opportunities provided by the SIR office.

During the in-person poster presentation in the afternoon, all IMSA students and staff had the opportunity to view students’ posters and discuss their research in the main gym, and could also hear presentations on student internships in IN2 (the Steve and Jaime Chen Center for Innovation and Inquiry). Some examples of student presentations included the aforementioned study of using “dust defender” cards to detect COVID at IMSA by Charles Ludwig (‘24), Ethan Remedios (‘24), and Josh Solone (‘24), a project on the benefits of expanding the CTA “L” service in Chicago’s south side by Samuel Go (‘23), a study into how indigenous Mexican medicine was affected following the Spanish conquest by Aldo Magaña (‘24), and a look at habitat models for the threatened sage grouse by Manasa Balasubramanian (‘24) and Annabelle Zhang (‘24). 

Looking to the future, Dr. Trainor expressed hope to eventually return to in-person individual presentations that would allow sophomores to ask more in-depth questions and receive better information on the SIR program. He also hoped that the SIR office could increase enrollment in the program and give students more access to different projects. Looking back on the success of this year’s SIR program, Dr. Trainor spoke positively about the experience as a demonstration of student success and a major selling point for IMSA and noted that he had “pride and happiness through the roof” seeing students present. Overall, this year’s IMSAloquium was a success, and the SIR office is planning to only improve the experience in future years.

About the Author

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh is a senior from 04 C wing who is currently sleeping in the loft. He likes learning about history, math, and railroading. In his free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, drawing, writing, hiking, and playing exploding kittens.

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