Kenneth Voglesonger

SCSE Director

I’m a first-generation college student who was born in Connecticut. I moved to New York City when I was 16, and didn’t really have plans to go to college. I always had an interest in science, but didn’t have any specific ideas about how to use that interest in terms of a career. I ended up filling out my college applications at the last minute (after being told by my guidance counselor that I was wasting my time), and was eventually wait-listed at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. I had some rough spots in high school in terms of my grades, but was able to explain things to the admissions office and was eventually accepted.

I originally wanted to be a music major, but after about a year I took a class in geology and was hooked. I majored in geology and earned my bachelor’s degree in five-and-a-half years. Toward the end of my undergraduate degree, I learned that scientific research was an actual career, and was something I thought I could do. With this knowledge, I applied for graduate schools and was accepted to a doctoral program at Arizona State University. While there, I developed an interest in the chemistry of water in different types of environments, and ended up doing my dissertation on “Experimental and Field Studies of Seafloor Hydrothermal Systems.” Basically, I did a series of experiments examining how different organic molecules could have been synthesized on the early Earth prior to the rise of life and did a bunch of field work examining the relationship between mineral precipitation, fluid chemistry, and microbial colonization of seafloor hydrothermal vents, with an eye toward how these processes could be related to the origin of life. 

After completing my doctorate in seven-and-a-half years, I took a postdoctoral position at the University of Toronto, where I learned about isotope geochemistry and did field work sampling water and gases within some of the deepest mines in Canada. This work focused on the role of geochemistry in supporting microbial communities located deep within the Earth, with an application to the search for potential microbial habitats on Mars. I started my position at NEIU in the Earth Science Department in 2008, and have been here ever since. I love to teach, and I find working with students at all levels one of the most rewarding and fun things that I get to do in my current job. I’ve been able to serve as the Director of the Student Center for Science Engagement since August of 2018.

My research has provided me with some amazing opportunities – including a submarine trip to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, sampling water 10,000 feet underground in mines in Canada, exploring the Chicago River system with NEIU students, working in Mexico, and attendance at conferences around the country. My initial interest in science and the path I took has opened up so many opportunities for me, and I hope to be able to continue to work with NEIU students to help them on their own paths toward success.

Shreya patel

STEM Advisor

I am the STEM Advisor at the Student Center for Science Engagement. I work with students from all of the STEM disciplines at NEIU on their career and professional development. I am passionate about helping students understand and navigate different STEM career pathways, and discover the ones that are best for them.

My academic journey has been far from perfect. I obtained my B.S. in Animal Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2013, with plans of attending veterinary school afterwards. During my undergraduate career I spent years gaining experience in small animal, exotic, and wildlife medicine. This led me to realize that being a veterinarian wasn’t the right career for me. Fortunately, I had some amazing faculty mentors who helped expose me to other careers in science. With the guidance of my faculty mentors I discovered a passion for reproductive physiology and began my graduate school journey in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

In graduate school I studied the impacts of different endocrine disrupting chemicals on female reproductive health. After getting my Ph.D. in 2017 I started a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where I studied the molecular mechanisms of growth and survival in uterine tumors. Throughout my graduate and postdoctoral training, I expanded my scientific knowledge, but also learned so much about careers in science and education. These collective experiences helped me realize that that there is so much one can do with an educational background in science. Now at NEIU, I plan to provide the guidance and mentoring that our STEM students need to navigate their own professional journeys in the STEM fields.


STEM Transfer Advisor

I am the STEM transfer advisor who works with students transferring from Chicago-area community colleges into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors at Northeastern Illinois University. I assist and support prospective, incoming and current students in the following majors: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. 

Before I came to Northeastern, I worked with prospective and incoming transfer and first-year students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I also have experience as a science teacher at the middle and high school levels and as a science educator for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. I received my bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Environmental Science and a Master’s of Education in Secondary Education and Biology. In my free time, I volunteer as a canoe guide with the Friends of the Chicago River and enjoy cooking and traveling.


The Student Center for Science Engagement (SCSE) mission of supporting student success in the sciences is an extension of mission of NEIU’s STEM departments. Its work is overseen and facilitated by the SCSE Executive Board. This board is made up of the director, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (or designee), and an elected faculty representative from the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Mathematics, and Physics, and an advisory representative from the department of Psychology.

Membership of the current Executive Board:

  • Dr. Kenneth Voglesonger (Director)
  • Dr. Sudha Srinivas (Acting Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences)
  • Dr. Beth Reinke (Biology)
  • Dr. Samantha Brown-Xu (Chemistry)
  • Dr. Rachel Trana (Computer Science)
  • Dr. Elisabet Head (Earth Science)
  • Dr. Joseph Hibdon Jr. (Mathematics)
  • Dr. Orin Harris (Physics)
  • Dr. Andrew Young (Psychology)