The Daily Illini

First-of-its-kind RSO finds footing at University

Leaders+of+the+Helix+RSO+meet+to+discuss+future+plans+for+the+organization.+Helix+is+a+student+run+organization+focused+on+multi-disciplinary+undergraduate+research.
Leaders of the Helix RSO meet to discuss future plans for the organization. Helix is a student run organization focused on multi-disciplinary undergraduate research.

Leaders of the Helix RSO meet to discuss future plans for the organization. Helix is a student run organization focused on multi-disciplinary undergraduate research.

Quentin Shaw

Quentin Shaw

Leaders of the Helix RSO meet to discuss future plans for the organization. Helix is a student run organization focused on multi-disciplinary undergraduate research.


This semester, students from various science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines came together to form Helix, the first student-led undergraduate research RSO with a STEM concentration.

Habib Benchehida, sophomore in LAS and president of Helix, said the group will strive to develop a diverse community of students committed to working together for a common goal.

Benchehida said he was inspired by his chemistry professor, Jeffrey Moore, to create Helix.

“Why not create an organization that will bring students together to conduct their own research?” Benchehida asked. “We want to publish something with the help of mentors, and it will be a great way to build connections with one another.”

Benchehida said Helix is geared toward students who want to develop their own research ideas.

“What distinguishes this club from research under a professor is that we’re the people who are running this, developing the ideas, we are the ones who are going to help each other, and we want an assistant professor to guide us on the right path,” he said. “This club is geared for us to do our own thing.”

Research is a way for students to develop their minds, communication skills and leadership skills, Benchehida said.

Helix is searching for funding and has potential collaborations underway, which Benchehida chose not to reveal yet.

“As of right now, we are working on building a foundation,” he said. “We just need students to attend meetings so we can see who is interested and dedicated and get started.”

Benchehida said one of their goals is to develop research to present at the Undergraduate Research Symposium next year.

While presenting research at the symposium would be a milestone for Helix, the group itself is an educational stepping stone, Yazan Kudaimi, sophomore in AHS, said.

“Our members so far are sophomores and freshmen, so this club is for students to see and learn from others about how research works and what it’s like to work in a research lab,” Kudaimi said. “We know what we want, so we aren’t running in the dark here.”

Helix is in the process of developing a membership point system for its approximately 40 new members, to encourage students to remain active within the group.

Idris Kuti, junior in LAS, said Helix is focusing on working on a group project this semester.

“We will grow and have more projects to work on in the future, but we need to figure out what we are doing first and how to operate,” Kuti said.

Kuti said the leaders of Helix are open to suggestions as they continue to grow as an RSO.

Farris Al-Qawasmi, freshman in Engineering, said he is excited to gain more insight into his career goals through Helix.

“The difference in learning about content and doing research is that you actually get a hands-on approach to figuring out what you actually like,” Al-Qawasmi said. “When you work with a TA, you do what they are doing, which is not a bad thing, but working on your own helps you grow.”

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