Joel Abad is a junior at the University of Central Florida with a major in Health Sciences Pre-Clinical and a minor in Health Services Administration. Joel’s primary focus is to do well in school in order to be a competitive applicant for medical school and ultimately become an orthopedic surgeon. Aside from school, he spends his free time outside playing sports. Joel has conducted research with a former professor of his since January 2016 and is now head researcher within his lab. In the laboratory, Joel is working on sensors ranging from color-changing films that rapidly indicate the presence of ozone to more compact forms for sensitive quantitation of ozone. Additionally, instrumentation for determination of ozone in atmospheric studies is being devised. Joel has also participated in volunteer activities such as, planning and executing a scientific workshop and conference for the nonprofit organization Society for Scientific Advancement. The purpose was to promote science initiatives in Jamaica by holding a workshop for children in an effort to get the children interested in science so that they pursue a career in STEM.
Andrew Aboujaoude is an honors student and a LEAD Scholar at the University of Central Florida. As a junior at the College of Medicine, Andrew is majoring in biomedical sciences and is studying to achieve a minor in political science. His main focus of research is molecular parasitology where he works with important malarial kinases in hopes of uncovering vital protein interaction networks. In addition to this research, Andrew has conducted past research in the field of rhetoric and writing where he worked on explicating the persuasive elements of ISIS propaganda. In his time at UCF, Andrew has been awarded several undergraduate research grants. Furthermore, he has presented his work at several public functions including the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence.
In his time in Orlando, Andrew has volunteered at many organizations with one of his favorite nonprofits being the Orlando Regional Medical Center. While there, he helped in the cancer center, cardiac unit, neurological unit, and the emergency department and also served as a volunteer in the trauma surgery unit in the days that followed the Pulse Massacre. After volunteering for some time, Andrew decided to start his own nonprofit organization Hearts for the Homeless Orlando that aims to help decrease hypertension incidence rates in homeless communities throughout the world. For his charitable work, Andrew has been awarded the Clinton Global Initiative University Scholarship, the Heart of UCF Award, and the Resolution Fellowship. Besides his current endeavors, Andrew aspires to go to medical school and eventually become a military physician. In this capacity, he hopes to serve domestically and abroad where he will aim to use his linguistic skills in Arabic and Spanish to benefit as many people as he can across the globe.
Caroline Arteaga is a Mathematics major at UCF. Though this is her third year at UCF, it is her first as a math major. Previously, she dabbled in chemistry, psychology, and Latin American studies as possible academic centers. Even though she did not continue in these fields, the varied experiences culminated to a bare desire for knowledge. Understanding information at its most basic core, i.e. “pure” math, was her passion. Understanding numbers would allow her form relationships with other subjects. Focusing in mathematics means learning physics and computer science, as well. Caroline is a member of the Exoplanets Research Group at UCF. Here, she is learning computational programming to unscramble the exoplanet data transmitted from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Not only does she have to understand these programs, but optimize them and even create new ones. Caroline hopes to work towards a PhD in Mathematics to then conduct research professionally, whether in astronomy, psychology, computational systems or any science that could benefit from this knowledge.
Paris initiated her journey into the field of aerospace engineering Fall 2016. She has conducted research within material science and engineering. This research gave her the extra push to minor in mathematics and material science. Paris is part of RAMP. In the future, she hopes to perform additional research in the field of material science and engineering- pursuing a master's degree in that area of study. She want to work for an aerospace company. like NASA and become an astronaut. She would love to travel around the world for her work, but she will gladly take outer space instead.
Christy Box is a senior majoring in Anthropology at the University of Central Florida. She is an undergraduate researcher focusing on the effects of institutional support of endangered languages on language ideologies in Ireland and Scotland, for which she received several research grants and awards. She has also been the Isle of Man Small Countries Fellow and the Global Connections Scholar on Refugees with UCF Global Perspectives. Box plans to pursue a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and work in applied anthropology for international organizations. Her research interests include endangered languages, media representations of marginalized peoples, disability studies, and human rights. She has completed fieldwork in Ireland and Scotland and has proficiency in six languages. Aside from her academic and research pursuits, she is a filmmaker and freelance writer.
Robert Caldwell moved to Orlando, FL from Eastern Tennessee to study at the University of Central Florida. A lifelong lover of the arts, he enrolled in history and social science education programs. Robert's excitement for history pushed him toward a career in education. His goals include obtaining a high school teaching position, while pursuing a Master's in History. Currently, Robert partakes in research on South African History where he analyzes the Apartheid era. The career path that Robert is pursuing is his dream and he want to push himself further within his chosen fields.
Erica Castaneda is a third year undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Psychology. She is involved on campus as a Resident Assistant in the Hercules Community and is the Alumnae Engagement Director of her sorority. She was previously also the Director of Volunteer Affairs for the Honors Congress after serving as a committee member for three semesters. Her passion for helping animals has inspired her to become involved in conservation efforts and pursue veterinary school. This past summer, she interned at Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge where she helped rehabilitate Central Florida’s wildlife and she is currently working as a kennel technician at University Animal Hospital. She will be traveling to South Africa this summer for a service-learning honors study abroad trip to volunteer at the Nkosinathi Community Center and assist in conservation efforts on the Nambiti Game Reserve.
Erica has been working with the Science and Planning in Conservation Ecology (SPICE) Lab since June of 2016, and began conducting independent research in September 2016. Her research investigates the effect of traffic noise on Cuban Tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) tadpole feeding behavior. This investigation is part of a larger study that focuses on the effect of traffic noise on the overall growth and development of Cuban Tree frog tadpoles. Beyond attending veterinary school, Erica plans on continuing her involvement in conservation efforts through research and volunteering. She is dedicated to helping animals and being an advocate for their humane treatment and protection for years to come.
Meredith Cohen is in her third year of undergraduate studies. She completed her AA degree at Florida State University. She now studies at the University of Central Florida seeking a degree in Communication Science and Disorders BA. Meredith’s goal after she earns her Bachelors degree is to go onto graduate school. In graduate school she will earn a Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology. Meredith’s main goal in her future career is to not limit herself to a certain age or group of patients she will work with. She hopes to have experience across the spectrum in her field.
Meredith is currently an intern at The Fountains Assisted Living Facility. She works in the Behavioral Analysis Memory Care Program assisting residents suffering from memory loss. Meredith is also participating in a research project funded by the National Institute of Health. She works closely with Dr. Kent-Walsh teaching preschoolers with communication disorders to use augmentative alternate communication through iPad application. This is Meredith’s first participation in a research project. Her goal for her next research project is to work with a different age group suffering from another disease that correlates with speech production.
Inspired immensely by the world around him, the environment and the people in it, Tithonas Davis strives to become an environmental Engineer in the field of wastewater treatment. He is interested in making a career in both research and consulting. His field of interest in terms of research involves the development of renewable energy. Tithonas, also known as Tony, enjoys the thought of a world powered by renewable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly energy sources. He is greatly motivated by the beauty of nature to be a pary of the search for sources and innovation of effective and efficient technology. In terms of consulting, Tony likes the challenge of problem solving, especially when developing solutions to unique engineering issues. Tony’s primary goals for his future are to be able to protect the environment along with having the ability to support his family and provide for them.
Tony currently attends the University of Central Florida. He is working his way to obtaining his bachelors of science in environmental engineering. Tony plans to continue his education to at least achieve a masters in environmental engineering and become a professional engineer. He is also strongly considering attaining a doctoral degree and join the body of academic research and education. Although he acknowledges the difficulty of this feat, he is driven to become a successful engineer. Currently on his third year approaching his fourth, Tony continues to find joy in discovering new things and pushing the limits of his knowledge.
Michael Dieffenbach is a junior in the College of Medicine at the University of Central Florida. He is studying Biomedical Sciences and hopes to earn an MD/PhD in order to pursue a career in medical research. His research interests include genetics, cancer, microbiology, and drug development. Currently, Michael is performing research in a genetics lab at UCF. There, he is investigating the genetics behind the cellular transport of chemicals called polyamines in order to develop more effective cancer medications. Michael’s undergraduate Honors thesis involves developing a more effective assay to screen genes for their involvement in polyamine transport.
Andrew Ezigbo is a junior, majoring in Sport and Exercise Science, at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. He completed an Associate in Arts degree from Valencia College, Orlando, in May 2016, prior to transferring to UCF in June 2016. Since enrolling at UCF, Andrew has actively pursued leadership and volunteer opportunities. He volunteers weekly at the Knights Helping Knights Pantry, a service organization affiliated with UCF. He is also a Research and Mentoring Program-Transfer Student (RAMP-T) Scholar, and a Lead Out Loud Scholar in UCF’s Lead Scholars Program. Andrew’s future graduate school plans include completion of a Masters in Sport and Exercise Science at UCF. He also hopes to earn a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology. His areas of research interest include health promotion and wellness.
Muhammad Farooq was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. After finishing middle school, he moved to the United States and got his high school diploma from Celebration high school and associate in arts degree from Valencia College. He is currently a senior at the University of Central Florida, pursuing his bachelor degree in biomedical sciences and minor in health sciences. His passion for medicine and making a difference in the lives of people has led him to participate in various community services such as helping Native Americans and medicine related extracurricular activities such as shadowing and robotic surgery symposium. Muhammad Farooq is currently studying the effect of growth factors in influencing the tumor microenvironment and how that could impact esophageal cancer development and invasion under the guidance of Dr. Claudia Andl. After finishing his bachelor degree from the University of Central Florida, he plans to go to Medical school and become a physician.
Lauren Gandy is a graduating senior at the University of Central Florida majoring in Forensic Science – Biochemistry Track and French, with minors in Chemistry and Biomedical Sciences. Her research interests focus on chemical and biological warfare agents, specifically prevention and detection technologies. Gandy’s goal is to attend a chemistry graduate program, then working for the Department of Defense in the chemical agent preparedness division after obtaining her doctorate. Currently, she works at the National Center for Forensic Science as an undergraduate research assistant in a trace analytical laboratory focusing on gunshot residue detection techniques. Additionally, Gandy is the Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellow at the UCF Global Perspectives Office, focusing on chemical warfare agents and nuclear proliferation. She also participates in extracurricular activities such as the President’s Leadership Council, the American Chemical Society, and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
Stephanie Gaspar is currently a senior at the University of Central Florida where she is majoring in Biology with a double minor in Environmental Studies and Health Sciences. She has been volunteering as a research assistant for several terms with the Aquatic Biogeochemistry Laboratory on campus, which focuses on wetlands research. Her work with the laboratory includes learning various analytical chemistry techniques, studying the effects of climate change on wetlands and researching the biogeochemical effects of oyster restoration in the Indian River Lagoon. Presently, she is researching the nutrient dynamics related to restoration efforts at Lake Tohopekaliga with funding from UCF Research and Mentoring Program (RAMP). She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, Golden Key International Honour Society, Delta Epsilon Iota Academic Honor Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success. As a first generation college student, she has worked diligently and graduated from Valencia College with multiple terms on the President’s List. Her intention is to pursue a career in botany, with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture and medicinal plants. She is currently a member of the Florida Native Plant Society and is involved with the American Farmland Trust.
Michelle Gaynor is a junior undergraduate student in the College of Science Department of Biology. Michelle is interested in plant biology and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in this discipline after completing her bachelors. After completing a graduate degree, Michelle hopes to continuing her research career in an academic setting to continue to address research questions regarding plant biology while mentoring the next generation of scientist.
Michelle has been involved in undergraduate research at UCF working with Eric Hoffman, Ph.D., and Linda Walters, Ph.D. Her current project with Drs. Hoffman and Walters aims to evaluate the impact of current restoration efforts on genetic diversity of smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, used for shoreline stabilization, within the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida.
Additionally, Michelle is dedicated to increasing female presence and overall helping students pursue science by promoting undergraduate research at UCF. Michelle is a member of the Student Undergraduate Research Council and is devoted to exposing students to the different aspects of science and helping them pursue research positions at the university. Michelle has also served as a mentor for freshmen women majoring in biology through the GEMS (Girls EXCELing in Math and Science) program for two years.
Alexis Ghersi is a senior student at the University of Central Florida pursuing a baccalaureate degree in Biomedical Sciences as well as a Spanish minor. Currently, she is involved with neurodegenerative research at the Burnett School for Biomedical Sciences as well as clinical research at Arnold Palmer’s Children’s Hospital. Additionally, Ms. Ghersi has cofounded Hearts for the Homeless Orlando, a nonprofit organization that provides blood pressure screenings to homeless individuals at local food shares. She will be graduating in May 2017 and plans to attend medical school the following August. Throughout medical school, Ms. Ghersi will participate in laboratory and clinical research as well as volunteer her time to the underserved community. Ms. Ghersi also strives to be a pediatrician. After her medical school training, Ms. Ghersi will be a physician for the U.S. Air Force.
Miguel Gil was born in Bogota, Colombia on September 20, 1995. His mother and father brought him to Orlando, Florida at the age of 5, where he has lived ever since. Miguel attended Freedom High School, where he spent his time focusing on his academics as well as folk style wrestling. Upon graduating from high school, he briefly considered attending the University of Florida before finally deciding to become a Knight at the University of Central Florida. He majored in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Health Sciences with a plan to go to medical school. He spent many years studying until in 2016, he was finally accepted to medical school. Miguel is currently a fourth year student at UCF and plans to become an Oncologist. He spends his time researching Plasmodium falciparum and understanding molecular and cell biology techniques used to elucidate the cell signaling networks in the parasite.
Emily is a junior at the University of Central Florida and will graduate with a degree in Biology and a minor in Statistics in May of 2018. Her research so far has focused on the spatiotemporal distribution of dwarf seahorses, mercury concentration in blue crabs, and integrated conceptual ecosystem models. If someone from outside of her field asked her to describe her background briefly, she would say “marine ecology”. While different, all of her projects fall under that umbrella. Admittedly, her initial attraction to marine ecology originated from her love of the ocean. However, as she has become involved with more projects her interest in the quantitative side of ecological research has grown exponentially. Her interests now broadly include the use of modeling and quantitative methods to improve the management and conservation of valuable marine fisheries.
Her short term goals are to strengthen her background in the quantitative aspects of fisheries management and to apply to graduate school. She will begin graduate school in the Fall of 2018 and pursue a thesis/dissertation project with a strong policy relevance. Her long-term career goal is to become a faculty member at a university. Emily feels strongly about staying in academia because mentorship in science has tremendously increased the quality of her experience as an undergraduate. Therefore, she will eventually seek the opportunity to do that for other students through teaching and advising at a university level. Additionally, she feels that communicating science to the public is of high importance and believes universities are an excellent platform for this communication.
Melissa Gomez is originally from New York but calls Central Florida home. She is graduating from UCF with her bachelors in anthropology in May 2017 and is attending graduate school there as well with a focus on biological archaeology. Her intent is to work in all areas of the world specializing in isotopic analysis of organic matter in bones, skin, hair, and nails to discover past life ways dealing with diet and disease and hopefully assist in new genetic discoveries that could shed light on current populations. Ms. Gomez plans to volunteer her time to aid in the recovery effort of deceased individuals from both natural disasters (DMORT) and crimes against humanity. Her research interests involve the diet, death rituals, and disease contraction of peoples both past and present and the biological implications of these topics. She has current research continuing in the Turks and Caicos involving agriculture and domestication and soon to be active work in Jordan and Turkey.
I was born in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, but moved to Weston, Florida when I was eight years old. From a young age, I have been fascinated by two subjects: sports and science. When I saw the end of my team sport days in high school, I focused all of my attention on scientific learning and discovery with the hopes of one day serving as a medical oncologist. Upon acceptance to UCF, and The Burnett Honors College, I decided upon the Biomedical Sciences major to further pursue my dream of becoming a doctor Over the last year and a half, I have been conducting an independent undergraduate research project in the Environmental Engineering Department in an effort to reduce carcinogen exposure in drinking water. My time in the lab has taught me much more than the numerous laboratory techniques, the most important lesson being that I wish to continue conducting research for the foreseeable future. This would allow me to remain on the cutting edge of science, and contribute to the scientific community. I am currently applying to medical school so that one day I can serve as a physician. UCF remains my top choice and I would feel especially fortunate to learn how to be the kind and competent doctor I hope to be, and continue the UCF tradition of becoming one of the “good doctors.”
Samuel is currently a senior at the University of Central Florida on track to complete a bachelor's degree in biomedical sciences. He has a 3.9 GPA and has shown himself to be well rounded, with a particular affinity for molecular biology. He has conducted research for two years regarding prostate cancer under the leadership of Dr. Ratna Chakrabarti. He has shown his proficiency through receiving multiple undergraduate grants aw well as winning the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence. He has participated in volunteering for three years with a Children's hospital, and in the local community doing outreach for those struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism. He has fulfilled leadership roles through being a teacher's assistant for multiple classes as well as an officer for and organization on campus. He plans to attend medical school and pursue a MD. He hopes to obtain a residency in internal medicine and possibly specialize in endocrinology.
Nikki Huynh is in her third year for her Biomedical Sciences major in the University of Central Florida. She is on the Molecular Microbiology track for her major and she currently is working a research project with Dr. William Self with Clostridium Difficile. The project entails utilizing an antimicrobial that is secreted from corals, Pupenhenone, to see its potency on the bacterium, C. difficile. Using different concentration of the antimicrobials, the minimum inhibition concentration (MIC) can be identified for the targeted Clostridium Difficile. With this results, she can test the identified concentrations on different strains of C. difficile to see if she can generalize its effects. Nikki is interested in attending graduate school for her Master’s degree in Microbiology or Food Sciences. She hopes with her degree, she could hopefully pursue a career in biotechnology or a food related industry.
Miguel Angel Jimenez is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where he is majoring in molecular biology and microbiology, and minoring in medieval and Renaissance studies. A RAMP Scholar, he has worked in basic science labs on cancer and neuroscience research, and is currently completing a thesis on brain tumor biology. Along with his oncology research, Miguel studies the philosophical and theological aspects of early modern Spanish literature. He has received numerous scholarships and research awards, plays the flute, is fluent in Spanish, volunteers at a health clinic for the uninsured, and founded a registered student organization to fight child sex trafficking. After graduation, Miguel hopes to attend a top-tier medical school, where he will pursue a career in academic medicine. He plans on becoming a neurosurgeon at a teaching hospital, where he can contribute to medical education and lead groundbreaking research in neurological diseases.