April 7, 2005
Posters in the Rotunda: A Celebration of Undergraduate Research
Remarks by UW System President Kevin P. Reilly
Good morning. I’m Kevin Reilly, president of the University
of Wisconsin System. It is a pleasure to welcome you to “Posters
in the Rotunda: A Celebration of Undergraduate Research.”
I’m delighted to be joined by members of our Board of Regents,
campus and system leaders, legislators, legislative staff, and most
notably, our students and faculty.
I believe that the undergraduate research experience represents
what is best about our great public university – providing
top-quality education, while harnessing the knowledge and talent
of the UW System to provide benefits for all. Our long-standing
commitment to fostering and celebrating these research opportunities
has enabled us to teach and mentor some of the world’s brightest
young minds right here in Wisconsin. The research projects represented
here today easily dispel the stereotype that research is something
faculty members do to escape from students!
Our students, with their faculty mentors, are conducting research
on some of the state’s — and the nation’s —
most pressing scientific and social concerns. For example, students
at UW-Fox Valley are researching the state’s W-2 welfare program;
two teams of students at UW-Oshkosh are examining microbial contamination
on Door County beaches; a group of UW-La Crosse students is assessing
health and wellness issues among Wisconsin Hmong-Americans; while
student researchers at UW-Green Bay are studying the effects of
classroom crowding on college student learning. The professional
and thought-provoking research of these students is as diverse as
the students and faculty members themselves.
The citizens of Wisconsin benefit from this valuable research,
while encouraging and supporting these efforts reinforces and expands
the traditional academic experience for both students and faculty
members. By conducting serious research as undergraduates, these
students and their peers across the UW System engage in “real-life”
training, and are prepared to excel in their future careers. Whether
they choose to prosper in private industry, public service, or the
non-profit sector, these students are the future engineers, biologists,
social scientists, medical researchers, teachers, doctors, lawyers,
and civic leaders of Wisconsin.
The “posters” we’re observing today also represent
one of Wisconsin’s major industry clusters. A report by the
Wisconsin Technology Council last year showed that academic research
and development in Wisconsin creates more than 30,000 jobs and annually
generates more than $800 million for our economy. This places academic
R&D on a par with the state’s plastics and printing industries,
and ahead of construction, as vital employment sectors.
These research efforts often lead to products that are used, and
consumed, globally. For example, UW-Eau Claire Computer Science
Professor Jack Tan and undergraduate student researcher Michael
LeMay are working with the WiSys Technology Foundation to license
their work on security and encryption operations for e-mail programs.
As a result of his research experience on this and other projects,
Michael was recently selected for a prestigious National Defense
Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, one of only 180 students
selected nationally from nearly 4,000 student applicants.
Those of us who helped put WiSys together several years ago to
encourage the development and commercialization of intellectual
property on campuses outside of Madison, where WARF has performed
that function so well, did not imagine that one of our first inventors
would be an undergraduate!
Developing a strong infrastructure to support cutting-edge research
will allow us to attract, and to keep, top researchers like Jack
Tan and bright students like Michael LeMay – and all of the
students and faculty here with us today! We must invest in academic
research to create high-skill, high-wage jobs that encourage our
students to remain in Wisconsin after graduation and keep Wisconsin
moving forward. As president, I promise you that investing in academic
research will remain one of my top priorities.
I am pleased to introduce Amanda Lederer, a senior biology student
at UW-Platteville. Amanda hails from Grafton, Wisconsin, and will
share insights about the value of her participation in undergraduate
research and how it has prepared her for further study in her field.
Thank you, Amanda. We wish you the best of luck with your research
efforts in the future. I would now like to introduce Dr. Jeff Johnson
of the School of Pharmacy at UW-Madison. Dr. Johnson joined the
UW faculty in 1999 – we consider this a very big brain gain
– and his research on chronic neurodegenerative diseases,
including Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and
Huntington’s disease, has gained national – and deservedly
international – attention.
[Dr. Johnson speaks]
Thank you, Jeff. We all appreciate your contributions to the state
through your research efforts. Finally, I would like to welcome
UW Board of Regent President Toby Marcovich, who will offer the
Regents’ perspective on the importance of investing in undergraduate
Thank you, President Marcovich. The research conducted at our institutions
is indeed a vital part of our mission. I look forward to working
with the Regents, the Governor, and members of the State Legislature
to ensure that all our students have the opportunity to gain first-hand
research experience, especially our talented undergraduates.
To close today, I’d like to again thank all our faculty and
students. I would also like to recognize Denise Ehlen (A-Len) of
UW-Whitewater, Laurie Dies at UW System, and their many colleagues
on UW campuses for their hard work and dedication to ensuring such
a successful event.
And a word directly to students from me today -- know how impressive
you are and how proud we are of you.
Thank you for being here today, and for your continued support
of undergraduate research at UW System institutions. Please enjoy
the posters and your conversations about them.