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Beckman Institute Open House

Welcome to the virtual Beckman Institute Open House!

Every other year, the Beckman Institute Open House offers an amazing look into the interdisciplinary research happening within our walls.

This year's open house is all online. We're offering a behind-the-scenes look into our research labs, unique facilities, and even the thoughts of our institute's founders.

Scroll down for a variety of videos and Google slideshows, which can all be expanded for easier viewing. We hope you enjoy our virtual open house experience.

As usual, this year's open house coincides with Engineering Open House, which is virtual as well.

Engineering Open House

Research exhibits

The Beckman Institute is home to a huge number of labs and research groups, and provides support for others around the University of Illinois campus. These exhibits offer a sampling of Beckman's research portfolio and how those involved are crossing disciplines to solve unique challenges.

All exhibits were created safely and according to CDC guidelines. Several included videos were shot before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interactive exhibits and virtual experiments

A few labs created websites that allow you to interact as if you were participating in their research. You can also check out Bugscope and our MRI guessing game.

Illuminated brain illustration

Attention and Perception Lab

Our lab, led by Diane Beck, a professor of psychology, studies the visual brain. We ask questions like: How does our experience change what we perceive, and what happens when we focus our attention? Visit our virtual lab to watch a video and participate in some sample experiments! You can test your visual speed and your ability to maintain focus.

Participate in a virtual experiment


Bug specimen seen through microscope

Take a closer look with Bugscope

Bugscope has been allowing elementary, middle school, and high-school students to see their insect specimens through the Beckman Institute's environmental scanning electron microscope for more than 20 years.

We offered two Zoom sessions during our 2021 virtual open house. You can watch them below.

Cognition and Brain Lab

The Cognition and Brain Lab studies how the brain converts sentences into the rich ideas we experience when we listen or read, and how those processes might change from young to older adulthood. We do this by measuring brain electrical activity while people comprehend.

Watch our video below to learn more about your electric brain and try examples of our online experiments. To learn more or participate in research in our lab, email usKara D. Federmeier, a professor of psychology, leads the lab.

Try an online experiment

Illinois Kids Development Study

Learn more about Illinois Kids Development Study, known as IKIDS! Below you will find two videos describing a little bit about our study. Next, we invite you to try out an online tool we're developing that will tell each study participant about the levels of chemicals we measured in their bodies.

Use code 'report' to see our online tool

Thank you for taking time to learn about IKIDS! Please contact us with any questions or for more information about the study. Susan L. Schantz, a professor emerita of comparative biosciences, leads IKIDS.

  • A Chemical Soup: Children's Brains and Environmental Contaminants A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    Professor Susan Schantz and her colleagues at Illinois are studying infants and their mothers to determine whether prenatal exposure to phthalates and other common chemicals leads to changes in their brain or behavior. This research, along with...

  • Future Environments: Household Chemicals A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    Comparative biosciences professor Susan Schantz warns how common chemicals around the house can impact human development and what can be done to help protect children.

    Schantz is a professor of Comparative Biosciences at the University of...

MRI guessing game

This little quiz features actual MRI scans of 30 different fruits and vegetables. See these interesting scans, keep track of your score, and share your thoughts with us on social media using #bioh21.


Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory

The Tissue Biomechanics Lab, led by Mariana Kersh, a professor of mechanical science and engineering, is an innovative solid mechanics lab. Its members are working to relate the structural and mechanical properties of musculoskeletal tissue to their function, with the hope of improving the treatment of bone and joint diseases.

Learn more about motion capture with the guessing game below. And, the lab's videos help explain the variety of methods members use.

  • Overview of the Tissue Biomechanics Lab

  • What can horses tell us about bones during growth?

  • How do we collect data on horse bones?

  • Tibia bone loading during basketball maneuvers

  • Collagen composition of knee ligaments

  • Effect of exercise in bone health

Watch exhibit videos and view slideshows

These labs and groups submitted videos and presentations all about their research. You can expand both types of media for easier viewing.

Adaptive Cognition and Interaction Design Lab

The Adaptive Cognition and Interaction Design (Action) Lab is led by Jessie Chin, an assistant professor in the School of Information Sciences. We are an interdisciplinary team, and are interested in translating theories in cognitive psychology, human-computer interaction and informatics to develop sociotechnical solutions for supporting our daily activities, especially for promoting health communication and behavior.

Learn about our team


Chemical Imaging and Structures Laboratory

Welcome to the Chemical Imaging and Structures Laboratory! Bioengineering Professor Rohit Bhargava leads our lab. It features interdisciplinary research, which can be divided into three major themes, including imaging theory and instrumentation, biological and micro-fabrication, and translational applications. The video below gives a glimpse of our research activities.

Learn more about our research

Educational Psychology Psycholinguistics Lab

The EdPsych Psycholinguistics Lab is directed by Kiel Christianson, professor of educational psychology. Research conducted in the lab covers most aspects of language use, including reading, comprehension, bilingualism, syntactic parsing, accent bias, and second language acquisition.


Learning and Language Lab

The Learning and Language Lab studies language learning and language use using a variety of methods and approaches. They include lab-based behavioral experiments with children and adults, collection and analysis of naturalistic datasets, and computational modeling. Lab members believe this approach allows them to understand the language input upon which language learning operates, and the learning and cognitive processes that operate in our brains when we use language. Jessica L. Montag and Jon A. Willits, both faculty members in psychology, lead the lab. 

  • Overview of the Learning & Language Lab A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    A look at the research taking place at the Learning & Language Lab. This work is part of the Illinois Language and Literacy Initiative. For more information, please visit

Miniature Brain Machinery Program

The next frontier for studying brain development and function lies in rationally deciphering, harnessing, and engineering the living 3D brain. The Miniature Brain Machinery Program is a National Science Foundation-funded research traineeship that combines cognitive and behavior studies with brain cell and tissue biology studies. Its goal: To train the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce in advancing discovery. Twelve faculty members are involved in this program.

See our virtual exhibit
  • What Are Organoids?

  • What is a Neuron?

  • Take a tour of the Rhodes Lab

  • Tour Martha Gillette's labs and learn about neuroscience research at Illinois

  • Learning about Chemical Reactions in Our Brains with Single Cell Mass Spectrometry

  • Studying Brain Diseases in the Cellular and Neuroscience Imaging Lab

Mobility and Fall Prevention Research Lab

The Mobility and Fall Prevention Research Lab focuses on the study of the control of movement by using tools from neuroscience and biomechanics. In the video below, you can see efforts at developing an immersive virtual reality paddleboarding game that motivates those going through physical rehabilitation by testing their balance in a fun way.

Manuel Hernandez, an assistant professor of kinesiology and community health, leads the lab.

  • Virtual Reality Paddleboarding A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    An immersive Paddleboarding game that motivates those going through physical rehabilitation by testing their balance in a fun way. The project integrates the HTC Vive together with Phasespace Impulse X2 motion capture and the Proprio 5000 moving...

Socio-Technical Risk Analysis Laboratory

The Socio-Technical Risk Analysis Research Laboratory, led by Zahra Mohaghegh, an associate professor of nuclear, plasma, and radiological engineering, is a multidisciplinary research laboratory with a proven track record of developing scientific and innovative approaches  for risk assessment, risk management, and risk-informed decision-making and regulation.

Learn more about our lab


Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group

The Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group is a leading method and software developer in computational biophysics and molecular simulation. The group’s software, used by hundreds of thousands of researchers around the world, has enabled some of the largest simulations ever in biological systems, including recent simulations of viruses (such as SARS-CoV2) and cellular organelles.

Recipes from the Beckman Café

The Beckman Café is an important part of the Beckman Institute. Located on the first floor, it's a place where researchers and staff members can connect, collaborate, and exchange ideas over a healthy meal.

Even though the café isn't offering food specials for this year's open house, here are a few healthy recipes from Manager Joshua Walker.

  • Beckman Café Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Pudding A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    Enjoy the richness and nutrition of avocados in a dessert! Beckman Café manager Josh Walker demonstrates how to make Chocolate Avocado Pudding. #FoodieFriday #hometogether

    2 large avocados
    1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

  • Beckman Café Recipe: Guacamole A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    What snacks are you making for your socially distanced/virtual get togethers this Memorial Day weekend? Beckman Café manager Josh Walker demonstrates his easy and delicious homemade guacamole. #FoodieFriday #hometogether


  • Beckman Café Recipe: Vegan Pad Thai A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    Try this quick and easy Vegan Pad Thai recipe demonstrated by Beckman Café manager Josh Walker. It can be personalized by adding a protein of your choice. #FoodieFriday #hometogether

    One 14-ounce bag or box of stir fry rice...

  • Beckman Café Recipe: Vegetarian Enchilada Bake A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    Trying out some new plant-based recipes while staying at home? Try this recipe to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The Beckman Café's Josh Walker demonstrates how to make Vegetarian Enchilada Bake, an easy one-pan meal. #hometogether #cincodemayo

Learn about Beckman's research facilities

Beckman has three core research facilities. The Visualization Laboratory, Microscopy Suite, and Biomedical Imaging Center offer Beckman researchers a range of specialized tools to help them conduct interdisciplinary research. Scroll down to take a peek into what each facility offers.

Biomedical Imaging Center

Beckman’s Biomedical Imaging Center develops cutting-edge techniques to image humans, animals, and other samples to discover their structure and function. BIC uses a variety of imaging equipment including magnetic resonance imaging, molecular imaging with PET and SPECT, fluorescence imaging, and ultrasound. Its staff members and researchers combine EEG and eye tracking with brain MRI in human experiments.

The Biomedical Imaging Center also conducts all University of Illinois research on the new Siemens Terra 7 Tesla MRI scanner, which was purchased with Carle Foundation Hospital and is housed at the Carle Illinois Advanced Imaging Center.

Learn more about BIC

Tour BIC with Director Tracey Wszalek and Technical Director Brad Sutton and learn more about the 7 Tesla MRI.

  • Giving back: student researcher, veterans work together to study brain health

  • Biomedical Imaging Center: Research

  • Biomedical Imaging Center: Core Facility Tour

  • Biomedical Imaging Center: fMRI Demo

  • High-powered MRI brings Carle and the University closer to groundbreaking research

  • BIC 9.4 Tesla MRI scanner

Microscopy Suite

Beckman's Microscopy Suite offers a range of imaging options and equipment. Researchers also use it to prepare, image, and analyze their specimens. Expert staff members are on hand to train researchers, including undergraduate and graduate students, about how to best get the data they need.

The Microscopy Suite is open to all faculty, students, and staff on the Urbana campus, as well as approved users from other universities and industry.

Learn more about the Microscopy Suite



Visualization Laboratory

Beckman's Visualization Laboratory is full of incredible tools that help researchers visualize their work. The labs offerings include:

  • image analysis and quantification in two, three, and four dimensions
  • scientific visualization
  • ultra-high speed video
  • macro-photography
  • macro-video and video production
  • 3D animation
  • high-resolution 2D scanning
  • 3D object scanning
  • publication graphics

Learn more about the Vis Lab


Take a virtual look at the Illinois MRI Exhibit

The Illinois MRI Exhibit at the Beckman Institute highlights the researchers who made this incredible technology possible, dating back to the middle of the 20th century. The physical space features the first two human MRI scanners, interesting artifacts, and information shared on interactive screens. The exhibit covers the past, present, and future of MRI research at Illinois.

The exhibit, located off the atrium on Beckman's first floor, is open during the building's regular hours. Visitors should enter the building from the south rotunda entrance.

Visit the exhibit's web page


Learn about Beckman and our interdisciplinary research in the science theater

Beckman's research is unique and varied, and our science theater shows off that breadth.

Watch current Beckman Director Jeff Moore ask Founding Director Ted Brown, a professor emeritus of chemistry, to share the behind-the-scenes story of the institute's creation 30 years ago.

Watch "The Instrumental Chemist," a documentary about the remarkable life and legacy of chemist, inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Arnold Beckman. Arnold and his wife, Mabel, gave $40 million to create the Beckman Institute in the 1980s.

The rest of our award-winning videos offer more peeks into the barrier-breaking research happening every day at the Beckman Institute.

Tour the Beckman Institute

The Beckman Institute is the largest research facility on campus. Faculty members from every college on campus are affiliated with Beckman. They study topics in three themes:

  • Integrative Imaging
  • Intelligent Systems (which include the brain)
  • Molecular Science and Engineering

Tour Beckman with Patty Jones, the associate director of research

  • Virtual Tour: Beckman Institute A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    Take a personalized virtual tour of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. For more information about the Beckman Institute, please visit

  • Virtual Tour: Arnold Beckman Rotunda Exhibit A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    Take a virtual tour of the Beckman Rotunda Exhibit with Patty Jones and learn about the history of Arnold Beckman and the founding of the Beckman Institute.

Take a 360-degree look inside the Beckman Institute

A 360 degree image of the Beckman Atrium
360-degree image of Beckman Institute rotunda

Solve Beckman puzzles in our virtual escape room

Complete puzzles about Beckman research and find crucial, missing equipment for our Illinois MRI Exhibit. Our virtual escape room was created by Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time and Space.

Registration is now closed.

  • Virtual Escape Room A chevron icon indicating the ability to open this video

    Virtual visitors will complete puzzles about Beckman research and find crucial, missing equipment for our Illinois MRI Exhibit. This escape room was created by Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time and Space and will be available during the Beckman...