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Behind the Scenes

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  • Celebrating our diversity through food

    'My background is not a gauge of my worthiness or an obstacle to communication but an amalgamation of experiences and culture that I can share with my colleagues,' writes undgrad student Yi-Ying Tung.

  • Following the sounds of prairie cicadas

    Scientists at the Illinois Natural History Survey study the elusive insect.

  • Gathering data to save a rare turtle

    'Our goal is to learn as much as we can about (Blanding's turtles). Knowing...how many Blanding’s turtles remain – in the context of the turtle community as a whole – will help in the development of viable conservation and recovery plans for them.'

  • Building a prairie and watching for bees

    Two years ago, Professor Alexandra Harmon-Threatt built this outdoor labby planting more than 80 prairie species here. Her mission is to attract ground-nesting bees. She is here to see which bees are showing up. But that’s not all she’s after.

  • Chasing bumble bees on a patch of prairie

    Scientists know so little about bumble bees that it’s hard to make recommendations about the kinds of habitat they need, says Tommy McElrath, insect collection manager of the Illinois Natural History Survey. 

  • Grace and healing: Parkinson's dance class exercises body, mind

    Dance for People with Parkinson’s uses dance to inspire patients to expand the limits of their condition. 'You just have to keep moving, one way or another. If I ever stop moving, that’s the end of it.' says participant Gary Stitt.

  • Rediscovering a path to the Milky Way

    We’re here because it’s wet. Archaeologist Tim Pauketat, who has studied Cahokia 25 years, wants to see it flooded. Watching how the water flows here will help unlock some of the secrets of this place, he says.

  • Rohit Bhargava: My path to Illinois

    'Illinois technology has transformed lives, from the transistor to the LED, the MRI and the web browser. I knew we had the science and people to transform cancer too, if only we could bring them together.'

  • Will Schneider: My path to Illinois

    'Illinois has historically played a large role in shaping our understanding of child maltreatment, and I believe that we can alter the trajectory of generations of children to come.'

  • Teresa Cardador: My path to Illinois

    'Meaningful work is not simply something you go out and find like an egg at an Easter egg hunt. It’s something co-created, over time, by individuals and the organizations they work in.'

  • Girish Chowdhary: My path to Illinois

    'At Illinois, this vision has bloomed into an invaluable research collaboration for some of the brightest minds crop sciences. The robots can do the research fieldwork required in a fraction of the time.'

  • Professor Esther Ngumbi: My path from the Kenyan coast to Illinois

    'I grew up on the Kenyan coast... My parents were teachers, but their income was not enough to sustain us and send us to school. So, we also farmed. I got up early every day to work on the farm before school.'

  • Reading history in the soil

    Archaeologists are often asked, 'What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever found?' My answer...is not as much about the objects I find as it is about the stories I learn from them.

  • Finding time for play

    Graduate student Mary Lyons studies teachers’ strategies for supporting young children’s play-based learning.

  • Surviving a football frenzy

    Photographer Fred Zwicky puts you on the field as bedlam unfolds and Illinois fans celebrate a major upset victory over heavily favored Wisconsin.

  • Measuring the unseen life of a river

    Illinois researchers can learn about the life of a river without seeing the animals that live there.

  • Bringing yesterday's plants to digital life

    This imaging process is part of Endless Forms, an NSFdigitization project. Our part is to digitize specimens from across the country in three groups: succulent plants, carnivorous plants and epiphytes.

  • Tracking an invisible world

    Successful experiments are worth the sleepless nights I spend dissecting the processes in living things that are essentially invisible to us.

  • Extracting history from a cornfield

    The scientists and students have access only to the foundations of the 800-year-old village, as plows have erased everything else. Looters, too, have damaged the site.

  • Govindjee's photosynthesis museum

    Plant biology professor emeritus Govindjee, who has made key contributions to the scientific understanding of photosynthesis, is also an archivist and historian of photosynthesis research.

  • Petroglyphs: Preserving the Past in 3D

    Archaeology team uses a portable 3D scanner to recreate the details of a hand petroglyph from a site overlooking the Mississippi River in Monroe County, Illinois.

  • Building an orchestra of brass

    The University of Illinois Saxophone Ensemble tackles music never meant for the saxophone.

  • Destination: Conservation

    My task is to survey randomly chosen fields in the (Conservation Reserve Enhancement) program to figure out whether and how these conservation areas are affecting birds that have declined in numbers

  • Finding the holiday spirit in rare books

    The Rare Book and Manuscript Library has holiday- and winter-themed books and images, from a depiction of a 1683 frost fair on a frozen river to illustrations of Norse folk tales

  • Excavating a cave without leaving campus

    Students learn to map a cave, lay out an excavation grid and use ground-penetrating radar to locate potential underground features - all in virtual reality

  • Finding water closer to home in Jimu Village

    Many of these happy faces wore skeptical frowns last April when we first approached the villagers with our crazy idea to find a new water source for them using high-tech instruments

  • Deciphering the history of a Chinese vase

    Scientists are helping determine the age of an antique Chinese porcelain vase in Krannert Art Museum’s collection through an X-ray fluorescence analysis of its paint

  • Playing a parasite for science

    I act the part of the cowbird: I spy on robins to find their nests and slip a foreign egg into each one. 

  • Finding an ancient Maya city in the jungles of Belize

    'The site is impressive, with monumental buildings and a temple that rises 30 meters above our heads. ...the west side of the temple platform is a sheer 10-meter drop'

  • Tracking a forest’s recovery one year after storm

    In February, 2017, a tornado swept through this part of the Shawnee National Forest. There are few canopy trees left standing and invasive understory plants have taken over