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UNF students SOAR with research

The annual Showcase of Osprey Achievements in Research and Scholarship (SOARS) 2024, took place last week at the University of North Florida.
Research student speaking to attendees at the SOARS Symposium at UNFDuring the interdisciplinary conference, 109 undergraduate and 55 graduate students representing various academic disciplines, presented their research and creative projects to students, faculty and others during the nearly daylong event.
Dr. Judith Ochrietor, associate professor of biology and director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said each year, the SOARS event provides a feel for the breadth of research activities happening at UNF. 
“UNF students are participating in fascinating research experiences on campus and in our community,” said Ochrietor. “We had a noticeable increase in the number of graduate students who presented their research this year and an increase in the number of students presenting.” 
“Also, the event was a venue for first-year students who participated in a research-intensive general biology I course, to showcase their projects. Regardless of where students are in their research training, SOARS provides an opportunity for them to hone their communication skills and share their findings with the university community.” 
UNF alum Kathryn Fletcher Henley, a Life Sciences teacher at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, and a former student of Ochrietor, brought a group of students from her elective class to the event.  
“It’s a great way to expose students to interesting research on various topics,” said Henley. 
At the conclusion of the event, Dr. John Hatle was named Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year and Dr. David Hoppey was named Graduate Research Mentor of the Year. 
Nominated by students and peers, the two were grateful for the recognition.
“Guiding young students through research involves mastering lab techniques one at a time, starting with relatively easy techniques and proceeding to more difficult ones,” said Hatle, who teaches biology and has been on faculty for 20 years. “Working with students on research is my favorite part of the job. It's nice to know they enjoy it, too.” 
Hoppey, director of the doctoral program and educational leadership, said he was honored to be recognized by his peers and students.
"I feel blessed to work with so many intelligent people," Hoppey said. "What is particularly rewarding about my work is that it provices an opportunity to mentor doctoral students around the nuances of conducting engaged scholarship." 
The event included presentations on a variety of relevant and innovative research topics including breast cancer risk assessment, dolphin reproduction and more.
Dr. Amy L. Lane, the presidential professor and director for the Advancement of Women in National Sciences, served as this year's keynote speaker.