The Merit Program for Emerging Scholars is a challenging program for select undergraduates from groups that have been historically underrepresented in science, math, and engineering. To be invited into the program, students must have high academic potential and be committed to excellence. With this program, we hope to create a community of scholars where students collaborate to solve challenging problems, develop friendships based on common academic interests, and inspire each other to maintain a high level of commitment to excellence.

Merit-style teaching consists of using a highly trained facilitator-instructor to stimulate student-student interactions by providing challenging problem sets or other activities for the students. The facilitator provides feedback as students work together in small groups and also encourages everyone in the group to interact and discuss each student's strategies. The university's merit program is based on the collaborative learning models of educator Uri Treisman. Under the guidance of a trained facilitator-instructor, students learn through active participation in both the teaching and learning process.

In order to “think like a chemist, mathematician, or biologist,” students must learn to solve complex problems by understanding the fundamental concepts, not simply using algorithms to get correct answers. To achieve this level of understanding, students will learn in a variety of ways.

  • Lectures: to obtain an overview of the concepts.
  • Text reading: to obtain the details of concepts and samples for solving problems.
  • Homework: to practice solving problems individually.
  • Discussion sections: to interact with other students and an instructor to learn concepts and problem-solving. 

MCB merit discussions are separate from the regular class activities. Currently, MCB merit is available for MCB 150, MCB 250, MCB 252 (spring only) and MCB 354 (fall only). Merit discussion require an additional two hours a week in class. For these two hours, a student earns one hour of either MCB 199 or MCB 299 credit. They are also assigned a letter grade for the 199/299 course based on attendance, preparation, and participation.

Interested in registering for an MCB merit workshop?

Please use the appropriate request form below. 

MCB 150 (MCB 199) 
MCB 250 (MCB 299 50A) 
MCB 252 (MCB 299 52A) spring semesters only 
MCB 354 (MCB 299 54A) fall semesters only

Video file

Learn more about the merit program


Hear from instructors and students about the University of Illinois' merit program.

Contact us


Questions concerning the MCB Merit Program for Emerging Scholars should be directed to Alejandra Stenger at

If you are interested in participating in other departmental merit programs (chemistry, integrative biology, or math) please visit for more information. 

To register for Chemistry Merit see the Chemistry Merit Program Registration Info Page

To register for Math Merit see the Math Merit Program Registration Info Page.

To request a seat in IB Merit submit the Spring 2024 request form.