Meera Komarraju: SIU Agriculture, Life Sciences and Physical Sciences Programs Prepare Students for Success | UES

The newly formed College of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences (CALPS) combines a variety of programs that prepare students to solve real-world problems during their careers.

A summer internship in agricultural crop protection with industry partner Syngenta helped a student move from an interest in law to a major in soil and crop environment management and a minor in microbiology. At SIU, this student continues to gain practical experience by working in plant pathology laboratories with Drs. Jason Bond and Ahmad Fakhoury, doing industry sponsored research on soybeans. Likewise, Forestry has a long-standing relationship with a southern Illinois tree care professional who hosts an annual field day at SIU’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center, providing students with hands-on training in arboriculture. and vegetation management. “Many students then turn to these high-paying, in-demand professions that weren’t even on their radar when they first considered studying forestry,” notes forestry professor John Groninger. “We often hear employers say they appreciate the positive attitude and work ethic of the Salukis they hire, and they keep coming back for more. For example, another student who did a summer internship in tree care and natural area management in rural southern Illinois and the St. Louis area learned to talk about nature to people from a variety of backgrounds and learn the skills to help them take better care of their environment. .

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Research skills to solve real world problems

This spring, one of CALPS ‘outstanding scholars and student researchers, Lincoln Weber, was named the Barry Goldwater Fellow, one of 410 American students to receive this prestigious award for excellence in education. A native of Lafayette, Indiana, Lincoln is a physics student specializing in materials and nanophysics. He works in the laboratory of Professor Saikat Talapatra and their work aims to improve the functioning of magnetic memory for next-generation computing devices. Like many UES students, Weber joined a research lab as a freshman, giving him years of hands-on research experience and a great start to his burgeoning scientific career.

Finally, CALPS faculty, staff and students have made significant contributions to local, state and national efforts to fight the pandemic. These efforts have included the production by the Fermentation Science Institute of an ethanol-based “Saluki Sanitizer” to help alleviate the shortage of hand sanitizer last summer, and the production by the School of Biological Sciences of tens of thousands of units of viral transport medium for covid-19 tests performed statewide. Additionally, Associate Professor Keith Gagnon, jointly appointed in Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Medicine, runs an interdisciplinary laboratory that includes undergraduate and graduate students who have recently gained international attention for their discovery of ‘a new variant of the virus. This new viral variant, called 20C-US, would originate in the United States and would have been traced by the Gagnon laboratory to Texas as early as May.

As we look forward to face-to-face classes next fall, Salukis in general – and CALPS Salukis in particular – can take great pride in their real-world experiences that set them up for professional success.

Meera Komarraju, Rector and Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, SIU Carbondale

Meera Komarraju is president and vice-chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

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