Students explain their research during the John Wesley Powell Student Research Conference.

John Wesley Powell Student Research Conference Scheduled

April 10, 2007   

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – The Eighteenth Annual John Wesley Powell Student Research Conference will be held Saturday, April 14 in the Center for Natural Science (CNS) Learning and Research (201 Beecher St., Bloomington).  The conference will include a full day of research presentations, both in poster and oral format.  In addition, there will be presentations by art students in the Merwin Gallery in The Joyce Eichhorn Ames School of Art Building (6 Ames Plaza West, Bloomington) and by music composition students in Presser Hall (1210 N. Park St., Bloomington).

The conference typically attracts more than 50 undergraduates, who showcase research projects from a variety of University departments and programs, including psychology, economics, political science, biology, mathematics, chemistry, English, theatre, and history.  To see a schedule of the conference, visit

This year’s keynote speaker will be Richard Binzel, professor of planetary science in the department of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and one of the world’s leading scientists in the study of asteroids and Pluto.  Binzel was a member of the International Astronomical Union Committee, which in the summer of 2006 brought forward the proposal to keep Pluto as a planet.  He will speak about the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt as a part of his keynote address.

Binzel completed a bachelor’s degree in physics at Macalester College (St. Paul, Minn.) and a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Texas. His current research focuses on mapping the geology of the asteroid belt through telescopic observations revealing the compositions of nearly 2000 asteroids. He is credited with having established compelling evidence linking certain earth-impacting meteorite types with specific asteroids. In 1999, Binzel devised the Torina Impact Hazard Scale, which assigns a number to the likelihood that a newly discovered asteroid will strike the earth. Binzell was honored with a Presidential Young Investigator award from George H. Bush in 1990 and the Harold C. Urey Prize from the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences in 1991. He is a current Science Team Member on the NASA New Horizons Mission to Pluto launched in 2006 and arriving in 2015. Asteroid number 2873 bears his name, an honor bestowed by the International Astronomical Union in recognition of his contributions to the field.

Student presentations will include such titles as “Trade Liberalization and Environmental Justice in the Ivorian Cocoa Industry,” a project by senior French and international studies double major Anne Fell, who theorizes that neoliberal economic policies have failed to adequately address the environmental and human costs of cocoa production in that region; “Minorities, Markets, and Mongols: Reimagining Center/Periphery Conflict in the Russian Federation,” which discusses senior political science major Brett Strand’s year-long Honors Research project in which he tested several theories regarding the reasons that conflict occurs between Moscow and periphery states like Chechnya; and “Travelling through Disenchantment: The Southern Seas by Manuel Vazquez,” a presentation by senior English literature and Hispanic studies major Rachel Slough connecting themes present in the Spanish detective novel to the frustrations brought on by he period of transition between dictatorship and democracy that began in 1975.

The John Wesley Powell Student Research Conference was established as an annual event in 1990.  Held in April each year, the conference provides an opportunity for students who are pursuing individual research projects to present their findings in a public forum.  Students at any level in any academic program throughout the University are eligible to participate.

The conference is named for explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran and founder of the National Geographic Society who joined IWU’s faculty in 1865. He was the first U.S. professor to use fieldwork to teach science, and in 1867, took IWU students to Colorado’s mountains—the first expedition of its kind in the history of American higher education.

For additional information, contact Linda French, associate professor of physics, at (309) 556-3580, or visit the conference Web site at

    Contact: Amanda ReCupido and Teresa Sherman, (309) 556-3181