John Wesley Powell Research Conference

Jennifer Schreiber '13 explains her research to Dr. Tian Xiao-He at the John Wesley Powell Research Conference.

JWP Research Conference

April 3, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— This year’s John Wesley Powell Research Conference marks the 25th anniversary of one of the longest running and largest undergraduate conferences of its kind. The conference begins on Friday, April 11 with Educational Studies student presentations and continues through Saturday, April 12. More than 140 Illinois Wesleyan students will present research and other creative activity ranging from the natural and social sciences to the fine arts and humanities by using posters, oral presentations, performing musical works, displaying artwork and more.

Venues for the various programs and presentations will include the Center for Natural Science Learning and Research (CNS), The Ames Library, the Young Main Lounge in the Memorial Center and the Merwin and Wakeley Galleries in the Joyce G. Eichhorn Ames School of Art building.

Fern Rosetta Sherff Professor of Composition and Theory David Vayo serves as co-chair for the conference with Associate Professor of Education Leah Nillas, who said, “At Illinois Wesleyan, we emphasize undergraduate research at the core of our mission. The John Wesley Powell Conference is evidence that we value that mission.”

There will be a complementary luncheon for conference participants, parents and advisors in the Young Main Lounge from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m., accompanied by performances of student music compositions. To commemorate the 25th anniversary, alumni participants of the conference will be honored as well, and a photo slideshow will be presented at the luncheon.

Paul Black, postdoctoral research fellow in traditional radiation oncology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, will deliver the keynote address titled “The Long Road to Exciting Results: New Discoveries in DNA Charge Transport,” also during the luncheon.

A multiple award-winning researcher, Black'straining crosses physics, biology and chemistry, focusing on radiation chemistry. He pursued research in ionizing radiation damage to DNA and protein, using magnetic resonance techniques to characterize free radicals in organic molecules.

Founded in 1990, the Student Research Conference is named for explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran and a founder of the National Geographic Society, who joined Illinois Wesleyan’s faculty in 1865. He was the first United States professor to use fieldwork to teach science. Later, Powell was the first director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology.

Following is the schedule for The John Wesley Powell Student Research Conference:

Friday, April 11

  • 4:00-7:00 p.m. Educational Studies Poster and Oral Presentations at The Ames Library

Saturday, April 12

  • 8:30-9:00 a.m. Continental breakfast and poster setup in the CNS Atrium
  • 9:00-10:00 a.m. Morning poster presentations, Session A in the CNS Atrium
  • 10:00-11:00 a.m. Oral presentations, Session 1 in the CNS classrooms
  • 11:00-12 p.m. Oral presentations, Session 2 in the CNS classrooms
  • 12:15- 1:45 p.m. Luncheon in the Young Main Lounge with keynote address by Paul Black and performances by music students
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m. Afternoon poster presentations – Session B in the CNS Atrium
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m. Senior art show and critique at the Merwin and Wakeley Galleries located in the Joyce G. Eichhorn Ames School of Art building – refreshments served

Nillas is working closely with Scholarly Communications Librarian and Associate Professor Stephanie Davis-Kahl to create materials for Digital Commons, Illinois Wesleyan’s online database for materials from past student research conferences.

“With Digital Commons, you’re not only presenting your work in a conference and having that one-on-one conversation with your audience, but now you have something publishable that you as well as future generations can benefit from,” said Nillas.

Digital Commons can be accessed at

For additional information regarding the conference, contact Nillas at or visit the John Wesley Powell Research Conference website.

Contact: Hannah Dhue, ’15, (309) 556-3181,