Friday, March 16, 2018

Undergraduate Image of Research Competition!

The Undergraduate Image of Research is a multidisciplinary competition celebrating the diversity and breadth of undergraduate student research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. All undergraduate students are invited to submit entries consisting of an image and brief text that articulates how the image relates to the research. Entries will be judged by a multidisciplinary panel for:

·         Connection between image, text, and research
·         Originality
·         Visual Impact

All images submitted will be included in IDEALS, hosted and archived by the University Library for long term preservation.

Accepting submissions from February 23, 2018--March 27, 2018.

All entries will be on display at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in April.

Chris Holmes, Programs Coordinator
5th Fll, Illini Union Bookstore Building
807 S. Wright Street, M/C 317
Champaign, Illinois 61820
Office phone: (217) 300-5453

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Quote of the Week: 3/7/2018 -- Unicorns

ACES James Scholar Honors Program
Quote of the Week: March 7, 2018

“The Unicorn: A Timeless Enigma”
By Rob Chappell, M.A., Assistant to the Honors Dean
Adapted & Condensed from Cursus Honorum VI: 8 (March 2006)

          Recent years have witnessed a dramatic upsurge of interest in cryptozoology (the study of “hidden animals” or fantastic beasts), as seen in a plethora of books, movies, video games, and clothing featuring basilisks, gryphons, dragons, etc. A perennial favorite among these legendary animals is the unicorn, a creature that has captivated the human imagination since prehistoric times. Possibly based on mistaken sightings of wild oxen, or perhaps on ancestral traditions of an extinct one-horned creature (see the illustration below), the unicorn remains a perennial favorite despite continued scientific skepticism about its existence in the “real world.”
          Traditionally, the unicorn has been depicted by authors and artists as an untamable herbivorous creature. It is like a snow-white horse in appearance, and its distinguishing feature is a single horn protruding from the top of its head. Many alleged “unicorn sightings” were reported by ancient writers like Aristotle, Aelian, and Pliny the Elder, and their accounts greatly influenced medieval and modern depictions of the unicorn. It was reported, for example, that the unicorn was a solitary creature of the wilderness that would fight to defend its “territory” from intruders – usually by charging its enemy (e.g., a dragon) and goring it to death with its powerful horn. Whatever unicorns may have been in fact or fiction, they were much sought after because their horns were highly prized by alchemists and apothecaries for their alleged curative properties.
          So did unicorns really exist as they were depicted by the ancients? Their existence in Nature (past or present) cannot yet be proved or disproved in an absolute sense. Until then, here are some books on “unicornology” for those who would like to learn more about these marvelous denizens of our imagination.

·         The Lore of the Unicorn by Odell Shepard (1930)
·         The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (1968)
·         Unicorns by Nancy Hathaway (1980)

Painting of an Elasmotherium by Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) – a prehistoric rhinoceros that might have given rise to the unicorn legend among early human tribes. (Image Credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


Friday, March 2, 2018

15th Annual Leander J. M. Haynes Humanities Book Prize

The ACES James Scholar Honors Program
Cultivating Opportunity and Achievement Since 1959

DATE:              Friday, March 2, 2018

TO:                  All ACES James Scholars
                        All ACES Chancellor’s Scholars
                        All Departmental Honors Advisors

FROM:            Rob Chappell, M.A., Assistant to the Honors Dean

RE:                  15th Annual Leander J. M. Haynes Humanities Book Prize Competition

I’m writing to invite you to participate in the fifteenth annual Leander J. M. Haynes Humanities Book Prize competition. The Humanities Book Prize is awarded to one ACES James Scholar or Chancellor’s Scholar each spring semester. The purpose of this award is to encourage you to “think outside the box” and build intellectual bridges between the humanities and your own scientific fields of study.

To enter the award competition, all you need to do is compose an original essay of 500-1000 words, describing an important book that you read during your formative years (in elementary school, middle school, or high school) and how it has affected your life. The essay should be entitled, “The Most Influential Book That I Read During My Formative Years and How It Has Impacted My Life.” In the essay, you should briefly summarize the book’s contents and significance, describe how and why the book has influenced your life, and state why the book deserves to be read by a wider audience.

Your essay should be emailed to Susan Schmall-Ross ( in Microsoft Word format by Saturday, March 31 @ 11:59 PM (CDT). Each essay needs to be printed in a standard twelve-point font (double-spaced) and written by one student author. The author’s name should only be listed on the first (title) page of the essay, since the authors’ names will be concealed from the Selection Committee in order to ensure an impartial evaluation of all submitted entries.

The Selection Committee will convene in early-mid April to determine the winner, who will receive a $150 scholarship prize, a commemorative certificate, and a classic children’s book from the early 20th century, specially chosen by the award donor’s family. The Humanities Book Prize will be presented to the winner during a short program (in late April or early May) at the Center for Children’s Books, which is located in the basement of the School of Information Science (the iSchool).

Complete details about the Humanities Book Prize competition may be found @

Quote of the Week: 2/28/2018 -- Fantastic Beasts!

ACES James Scholar Honors Program
Quote of the Week: February 28, 2018

“Of Fantastic Beasts”
By Rob Chappell, M.A., Assistant to the Honors Dean
Adapted & Condensed from Cursus Honorum IV: 3 (10/2003) & VII: 7 (2/2007)

          Fantastic beasts are creatures that have haunted the human imagination for millennia but do not (as far as we know) exist in Nature. Recent decades have witnessed a dramatic upsurge of interest in fantastic beasts, as can be seen in a plethora of books, movies, TV shows, video games, and clothing based on cryptozoology (the study of “hidden animals”). It seems that dragons, unicorns, gryphons, phoenixes, and their fabulous kin have found a new home in popular culture after a few centuries of obscurity. These exotic creatures are not only fascinating in and of themselves; they also help us to understand the worldview and mindset of the people who told (and still tell) stories about them.
          Most of the fantastic beasts that inhabit contemporary works of speculative fiction have not been invented out of thin air by modern authors. Instead, these fabulous creatures were described by ancient and medieval scholars who sincerely believed in their actual existence. Relying on Classical Greek and Roman scientists (like Aelian, Aristotle, and Pliny the Elder), medieval European scholars catalogued and classified a cornucopia of fantastic beasts in books called bestiaries. These were often illustrated with elaborate paintings, and the accompanying text was sprinkled with informative tidbits about the animals’ behavior and characteristics.
          Whether or not fantastic beasts are still lurking in unexplored regions of our planet (or perhaps on other worlds in the Universe), we can still enjoy them and appreciate the stories, poems, music, and art that they have inspired people to create since the dawn of civilization.

Recommended Resources
Happy hunting – and beware of the basilisk! J
·         The Book of Beasts, Translated by T. H. White: This is an English translation of a Latin bestiary compiled in 12th-century England, accompanied by line drawings and explanatory notes.
·         The Book of Fabulous Beasts, Edited by Joseph Nigg: This oversized volume is a delightful romp through centuries of bestiary lore, with excerpts from hundreds of sources, both literary and scientific.
·         The First Fossil Hunters by Adrienne Mayor: Well-grounded scientific research and insights from Classical mythology make this book a rare treat, as the author explores the origins of myths and legends about fantastic beasts in the discoveries of ancient fossil collectors.

The legendary Scandinavian warrior-hero Beowulf (fl. ca. 6th century CE) battles a dragon in this 1908 painting by J. R. Skelton. (Image Credit: Public Domain)