International Summer Immersion Program offers outstanding experience while deepening ACES’ strategic partnerships

Twenty-four undergraduate students hailing from both China’s Zhejiang University and South Korea’s Chungnam National University successfully completed the 2015 International Summer Immersion Program (ISIP) on August 14.  

The five-week ISIP program coordinated by the ACES Office of International Programs included a research apprenticeship with an ACES faculty member as well as a series of topical seminars, language classes that focused on English for graduate students, and cultural field trips. The program culminated with a poster session, where the students had the opportunity to showcase their research experiences.

The students left with new skills, fond memories and strong friendships. Many of them hope to return to the University of Illinois for graduate study.  

“This unforgettable experience helped me decide what I should do after graduation,” said Jingwen Cai, who was mentored by Dr. Pawan Takhar and is now considering a graduate program in the College of ACES.

Cai named the great access to faculty mentors and the responsibility of producing a research poster as key reasons why the program is so valuable.   

Yiqi Wang, mentored by Jeffrey Matthews, is also considering applying to graduate school at the University of Illinois and said, “The program improved my research and English skills. Dr. Matthews taught me so much about soils, methods to analyze problems, and how to deal with unexpected experiment results.”

In addition to the research work, the students enjoyed an active social program that included cultural activities in Springfield, Chicago, St. Louis, and on campus.

Yohan Kim, mentored by Mohammad Babadoost, reflected, “I learned to balance work and play, which will be important in life. I also learned the importance of learning another language and of having an international outlook.”  

The ISIP evolved from the annual summer program formerly known as the Zhejiang University Research Apprenticeship Program. The program expanded this year to include students from Chungnam National University (CNU) as a result of the growing ties between ACES and CNU, which were reinforced by Associate Director Suzana Palaska’s visit last fall. The program will likely include students from additional universities in the future.

In the past six years, more than 120 students have graduated from this unique program. Its quality and value have been repeatedly recognized by faculty and students at our key partner universities. At Zhejiang University, the program has repeatedly received the “Best Summer Group Program” award.  

Two 2014 ISIP alumni, Qingyan Xiang and Jing Jin from Zhejiang University, joined the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition in “3+2” program this past August. 

OIP is also thankful for our ACES faculty mentors and their graduate students without whom this program would not be possible:

Agricultural & Biological Engineering: Dr. Xinlei Wang, Dr. Kaustubh Bhalerao, Dr. Rabin Bhattarai and Dr. Richard S. Gates, Dr. Alan C. Hansen, Dr. Prasanta Kalita

Animal Sciences: Dr. Juan Loor

Crop Sciences: Dr. Erik Sacks, Dr. Youfu 'Frank' Zhao, Dr. Maria Villamil, Dr. Cameron Pittelkow, and Dr. Mohammad Babadoost

Food Science and Human Nutrtion: Dr. Zeynep Madak-Erdogan, Dr. Juan Andrade, Dr. Hao Feng, Dr. Keith Cadwallader, Dr. Pawan Takhar, Dr. Yong-Su Jin, Dr. YoungSoo Lee and Dr. Elvira DeMejia

Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences: Dr. Jeffrey Wayne Matthews

The program is greatly assisted by Danni Chen, OIP graduate assistant, who is an alumnus of Zhejiang University.

For more information about the ISIP, visit:


Article submitted by Leslie Myrick, 217-244-5373