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UNF SOARS conference highlights exceptional student research

The University of North Florida’s Showcase of Osprey Advancements in Research and Scholarship (SOARS) is an annual interdisciplinary conference in which undergraduate and graduate students showcase their innovative research and creative projects.

Exceptional projects were awarded to an undergraduate researcher and mentor as well as a graduate researcher and mentor.

Undergraduate Researcher of the Year: Amanda “Mandy” Game

Amanda Game is an interdisciplinary studies major and has been an integral member of the research program of Dr. Frank Smith in the Department of Biology since 2018. Game works with Smith to study the evolution and development of microscopic animals called tardigrades. Her curious nature and impressive work ethic have allowed her to work on several projects involving molecular techniques, which have resulted in co-authorship on three peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts in high impact journals. She also developed a laboratory protocol in which up to four genes expressed in tardigrade embryos can be visualized at once, making her literally the world’s expert on the technique. She represented UNF at the 2019 Posters at the Capitol event hosted by the Florida Undergraduate Research Association and won presentation awards at local, state, national, and international scientific conferences. She was chosen to give a talk in the Best Student Presentation competition at the 2022 meeting of The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, an honor typically reserved for doctoral students. 

Graduate Researcher of the Year: Madison Reasonover

Madison Reasonover is pursuing a Master of Science in Psychological Sciences. Reasonover actively participated in interdisciplinary research opportunities throughout her undergraduate career including the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference and the Hicks Honors College Night of Scholars. She has continued to build upon a strong foundation of collaboration and rigorous scientific research. Reasonover is currently serving as a Research Methods Lab Instructor and a teaching assistant in psychology in addition to her active research towards her thesis on the interactions between romantic couples, power, and health attitudes and behaviors. Her dedication to the advancement of knowledge is further illustrated by her continued work with the Hicks Honors College, serving on the Deliberative Dialogue project in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Undergraduate Mentor of the Year: Dr. Kristen Hicks-Roof

Dr. Kristen Hicks-Roof is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics. In her research program, she develops and analyzes the impact of online nutrition education courses that healthcare professionals share with their patients. Roof was named the 2021 Outstanding Dietician of the Year by the First Coast Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is a UNF Faculty Development Fellow and a Community Engagement Research Faculty Fellow.  As a research mentor for undergraduate students, she involves her mentees in all aspects of their research projects to ensure they appreciate and understand the research process. Roof and her students have published several manuscripts, media presentations, and conference presentations. 

Graduate Mentor of the Year: Dr. Chitra Lakshmi K Balasubramanian 

Dr. Chitra Lakshmi K Balasubramanian is an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy.  Her research seeks to enhance evidence-based practice in physical therapy rehabilitation practice and to aid in development of a scientific framework to design efficient rehabilitation strategies for walking and balance improvement. In 2010, Balasubramanian served as the department team leader of the ‘Engaged Department Grant’ awarded by the Center for Community-Based Learning and she is the current director of the Hicks Hall Research Lab.