In May 2011, Aunica Jones will be among less than a handful of African American female students nationwide graduating with a B.S. in Neuroscience. Aunica is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) here at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2009 she was awarded an LAS URI (Undergraduate Research Initiative) award inaugurated by Dean McBride. With the money from the award, she was able to quit work and be trained under the supervision of Dr. Leslie Fung in the Department of Chemistry. Dr. Fung says of Aunica. From the beginning, she showed a strong desire to do research. Her desire propelled her to learn quickly. She saw the need to think critically and analytically. She spent the time to review the materials that she learned in classes and in the lab, and she internalized the information. She learned the what’s and then asked the why’s and how’s. Her determination, her organization, and her drive allowed her to make excellent progress in her research project.
Aunica was invited to write a short essay for the LAS Insider about her research experience. She wrote an article, entitled “Learning to Think Like a Scientist”. Her research achievement was recognized in last year’s UIC Student Research Forum, where she received the third place award. In August 2010, she was invited to represent LAS URI awardees at an annual LAS Freshman Town Hall with over 350 new students and their families. An African American student (freshman), whose parents met Aunica in the Town Hall last August, is now in Dr. Fung’s lab participating in LAS URI research.
In October, 2010, Aunica was invited to give a poster presentation at the “Creating a Culture of Research on Campus” workshop at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. Aunica was one of only two students to make the poster presentations while others were presented by faculty members. She represented UIC very well. Aunica has become an excellent role model for students, not just for African American students, but for all students.