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UNF students chosen to highlight undergraduate research at Florida State Capitol

Four UNF students present research at Florida CapitolFour University of North Florida students were chosen to highlight their innovative and impactful undergraduate research projects at the second annual Florida Undergraduate Research Posters at the Capitol event in Tallahassee.

The students were nominated by faculty and selected by UNF’s Office of Undergraduate Research for the excellent quality of their research and ability to represent UNF in front of Capitol legislators.

  • Bailey Rawlinson presented "An fNIRS Investigation of Politics, Personality, and Visual Emotional Reactivity." Rawlinson, a recent behavioral neuroscience graduate, worked with faculty mentor Dr. Katherine Hooper, behavioral neuroscience program director, to examine the foundational tenets of political ideology to identify additional factors that are known to powerfully influence ideological and emotional processes. To measure emotional processing and correlate it to political ideology, the team employed a Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to observe neural activity in several areas of the prefrontal cortex during presentation of positive, neutral and negatively valenced images from a validated, standardized photoset.
  • Alexander Bartkowiak presented "Effects of Ivermectin on Neuro-transcriptional Profiles in Zebrafish." Bartkowiak, a junior majoring in biology, worked with faculty mentor Dr. Marie Mooney, biology assistant professor, to find new neuroactive pathways that can inform scientists of the risks of off-label ivermectin use to humans and other vertebrates. The study used genetically engineered NeuroD-GFP zebrafish that have a widespread expression of Green Fluorescent Protein in their neurons to isolate neuronal and non-neuronal cell populations with and without exposure to ivermectin via flow cytometry and then performed bulk-RNA sequencing to determine the expression profiles of each population.
  • Hannah Merritt presented "Containment, Care, & Corpses: West African Mortuary Practices Amid the Ebola Epidemic." Merritt, a senior anthropology major and African American Studies minor, worked with faculty mentor Dr. Gordon Rakita, anthropology professor, on research examining correlations between mortuary practices and the 2014-15 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. Merritt examined factors and components of West African environments, cosmologies, belief systems and public health responses to analyze how West African mortuary practices have been altered by the Ebola virus and what the Ebola outbreak tells us about pandemics, like COVID-19. She also explored how different cosmologies affect perception of disease and mortuary practices and how environmental and geographical factors contribute to cosmology.
  • Raymond "Andy" Kapperman presented "Next Generation Wave Energy Converter (WEC): Harnessing the Energy of the Ocean." Kapperman, a senior mechanical engineering student, is working with faculty mentor Dr. Cigdem Akan, civil engineering assistant professor, and an interdisciplinary team of UNF researchers on a project that aims to provide an environmentally sustainable solution to the global energy crisis through Wave Energy Converters (WECs). WECs are one mechanism that can convert the mechanical forces of waves into electrical energy and may be used in applications spanning from disaster relief in remote communities to supplementing the energy needs of major shipping ports. The team is currently manufacturing and testing an intermediate-scale design and will soon transition to full-scale modeling with the intention to prove market feasibility.