What do you get when you combine one motivated Illinois State University student with dedicated mentors, academic research, and the “Honors Mindset?”  Some pretty innovative learning experiences, as Basheer Becerra can attest.

Becerra, a sophomore computer science student, joined the Honors Program when he accepted the University Scholarship.  “Beyond providing a very generous scholarship, the University Scholars Program has aided me in several ways to achieve my goals during my first year of college,” Becerra says.  “It provided two unique resources and support—a faculty mentor and a peer mentor.”

Becerra saw the combined support and resources through the University Scholars and Honors Programs as a perfect fit.  His first Honors Learning Experience, Honors Mindset Seminar, helped lay the foundation for his future success.  “One of the most valuable lessons I learned was about Carol Dweck’s growth mindset versus a fixed mindset where I developed the mentality of self-improvement and self-awareness,” Becerra says.  “There were many other valuable lessons such as Angela Maiers’ Habitudes, the Dimensions of Honors Learning, the use of digital badging, and so many more.”

His very next semester Becerra saw a way to grow through Honors Research.  He approached his University Scholars faculty mentor, Assistant Professor of Information Technology Rishi Saripalle, about supervising his Honors Independent Study focusing on “software engineering of bioinformatics web applications.”

In his new role of researcher, Becerra worked with Assistant Professor of Cellular Immunology Nathan Mortimer in the School of Biological Sciences and Saripalle to plan a unique bioinformatics application that would provide value to the ISU molecular biology research team, as well as the bioinformatics community.  Becerra discovered technical knowledge in software and biology, the scientific method, and how research is conducted, specifically in his future field of bioinformatics.

Becerra had such a meaningful experience in his first semester conducting research that he plans to continue pursuing additional research opportunities.  While his future career goals are undecided, he feels confident that exploration through research will help him examine fields related to academic research, software development, and entrepreneurship.

Becerra is excited to see what the future holds, and how his mindset will continue to grow and evolve over time.  “The support of my mentors, during research and as a University Scholar, has encouraged me to make the most of my time at Illinois State and in the Honors Program,” Becerra says.  “I’m looking forward to expanding upon what I’ve already learned and applying this knowledge in every opportunity I pursue.”