This summer I was given the incredible opportunity to participate in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This was a 10-week program in which I and 16 other students from Universities across the United States conducted research in various different disciplines within chemistry. We were all fortunate enough to have been selected to work in research groups at UIUC, which not only has a prestigious chemistry program but also a beautiful campus! The campus is actually built directly between the two towns, with half the campus in Champaign and the other half in Urbana while the student union sits on the border. Though miles and miles of cornfields surround the towns, within the towns there are a lot of fantastic restaurants, with live music and a vibrant downtown area.
The campus has several interesting and attractive landmarks that provided for an interesting and exciting experience, especially in exploring the campus. The library is the second largest university library in the nation, second to Harvard University. Located on campus is also the Morrow Plots, the oldest experimental cornfield in the United States and the second oldest in the world. In order to ensure that the Morrow Plots had enough sunlight, the University was careful in placing buildings so no shadows would cast on the field—even part of the library is underground! Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) was first applied at UIUC for chemical analysis, and faculty member Paul C. Lauterbur, shared the Nobel Prize in 2003 for his research in NMR.
UIUC is an amazing school that conducts cutting edge research, with phenomenal professors as well students. This summer I worked in Professor Rodriguez-Lopez’s electrochemistry group, conducting research in non-aqueous redox flow batteries. I explored the electron transfer kinetics of redox active polymers for use in flow batteries. It was an awesome experience working hands-on in a new environment while learning new techniques and methods. This was an awesome experience being able to work in a lab full-time and gave me the opportunity to realize that research is my passion and has made me incredibly excited for graduate school. I strongly encourage anyone interested in, or even just considering conducting research to apply—the REU is a fantastic program!