Meet the Office of Undergraduate Research staff

portrait of karen rodriguez'g

Karen Rodriguez'G, Director

Karen Rodriguez’G is Director of the Illinois Office of Undergraduate Research. As Director, she leads several campus-wide innovations and initiatives designed to foster, support, and enhance undergraduate research within the larger educational and research mission of the university, including: building best practice models in support of undergraduate research; recognition of faculty mentors in tenure and promotion; large-scale assessment of the impact/benefits of research; and pedagogical initiatives fostering access to the research process for underserved student populations. She is currently a Fiddler Faculty Fellow as part of a grant-funded year-long interdisciplinary research community and pedagogical initiative foregrounding the importance of the arts & humanities in global innovations. Earning her PhD in History (Modern Britain and Empire) from the U of I, her research interests include imperial/global networks of knowledge and exchange, space, place and identity, and the science of teaching and learning, particularly in the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts.


portrait of Chris Holmes

Chris Holmes, Associate Director

Chris Holmes currently serves as Associate Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research as well as the co-director of the AAP Summer Research Fellowship in Integrative Biology (AAP-SRF). He received his MS (2014) and PhD (2019), both in Biology, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Chris' research interests include evolutionary ecology and the maintenance of biodiversity in natural and semi-natural habitats. As a professional, Chris aims to promote students' intrinsic motivation so as to drive self-exploration and the pursuit of knowledge. Chris' responsibilities at OUR include 1) the supervision of the day to day operational activities of the office including the oversight of office staff, programs, and budget, 2) assisting the director with the development of OUR’s strategic plan, 3) coordinating the office's outreach efforts, 4) oversight of office- and campus-level assessment efforts, 5) supporting undergraduates throughout their research journeys, and 6) serving as a liaison to the Big Ten Academic Alliance Directors of Undergraduate Research.


portrait of Kari Darby

Kari Darby, Coordinator of Research Programs

Kari Darby serves as the Coordinator of Research Programs for the Office of Undergraduate Research. Her responsibilities include teaching ongoing workshops, overseeing the Illinois Undergraduate Research Ambassadors Program, and coordinating with offices and student organizations to curate presentations on undergraduate research. Kari recently graduated from the University of Illinois with an MS in Library and Information Science. Her research interests include information behaviors of undergraduate students and effective strategies for introducing students to the research process. Inspired by her own background in music, Kari is especially committed to promoting the diversity of research in the arts and humanities. In her position at the Office of Undergraduate Research, Kari helps students learn about research in their field, find research opportunities, and provides support for students to get started.


portrait of Liv Borawski

Liv Borawski, Social Media and Communications Intern

Liv Borawski is a History major dedicated to understanding the role of history within the classroom. Growing up as the product of immigration, Liv holds a strong relationship to the Polish-American community in Chicago, attending Polish school on Saturdays for fun. As a future educator, Liv remains passionate about understanding educational policy and its role within American society. Previously, she participated as a Diversity and Inclusion Facilitator and History Harvest Intern for the University of Illinois. For the Office of Undergraduate Research, she maintains the office's social media presence by creating content showcasing student research on campus.


portrait of Ellie Lee

Ellie Lee, Graphic Design Intern

Ellie Lee is a Graphic Design major in the School of Art & Design. She has had a passion for art from the moment she was able to hold a pencil. Her interest ranges from all traditional to digital mediums. Ellie is always open to experimenting and trying out new ways to create art, her personal favorite medium being water color. She found a love for graphic design her senior year of high school and has been actively pursuing it as a career since. In her free time she enjoys sketching on her iPad and listening to music. For the Office of Undergraduate Research, she designs for and manages the robust portfolio of the office's graphic design work.


portrait of Melany Romero

Melany Romero, Social Media & Communications Intern

Melany Romero is a Clinical Psychology and Spanish major determined to see herself have a positive impact on low-income communities. She strives to challenge mental health stigma and inequities among minorities, specifically the Latinx community, through research and implementation of new methods. Melany looks forward to working with people in the future to assist them in reaching their full potential and taking control of their lives. She is currently doing research with the Political Ideology and Groups lab on campus and, in her free time, likes to dance and explore new restaurants.