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Office of Undergraduate Research

Previous Researchers of the Month

May 2024: Shannon Brew

Undergraduate Research of the Month Shannon Brew posing in a marsh in front of tall grassShannon Brew is a senior majoring in Biology, with a concentration in Coastal and Marine Biology. Currently, Shannon works with Dr. Scott F. Jones, an assistant professor in the UNF Biology department who specializes in coastal ecosystem ecology research. While she has participated in numerous research projects throughout her undergraduate career, Shannon’s latest project evaluates whether created islands can form marsh migration pathways comparable to those found in natural uplands by using soil composition and organic matter to assess the function of the islands. While she has not yet published these data, Shannon has presented her project’s findings at multiple conferences across the country, including the 2024 Annual Meeting of the Southeast Estuarine Research Society (SEERS) in Savannah, Georgia, the 2024 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC) in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as UNF’s own on-campus symposia, ARISE 2023 and the 2023 Natural Sciences Poster Session. Additionally, Shannon participated in a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Central Florida in an aquatic biogeochemistry lab, which sparked her interest in soil science and led to her developing a standard operating procedure for quantifying active carbon in wetland soils using potassium permanganate. From this experience, Shannon was also awarded a National Science Foundation travel grant to present the findings from her REU project in Spokane, Washington, at the Society of Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting. When reflecting on her favorite part of her research experiences, Shannon particularly enjoys the camaraderie of fieldwork and the opportunity to “be surrounded by a wonderful team in a beautiful place while becoming ridiculously muddy and taking soil cores.” She advises aspiring undergraduate researchers to choose faculty mentors wisely and with an open mind, to stay curious, and be dependable. After she graduates this fall, Shannon plans to find a career that will allow her to share her passion and love for wetland ecosystems.

April 2024: Natalie Clum

Natalie Clum Researcher of the Month April 2024

Natalie Clum is a senior majoring in psychology. She works with Dr. Heather Truelove from the Department of Psychology on pro-environmental research, where they examine how different message types regarding reducing red meat consumption influence the actions and feelings of individuals who view the message. Currently, Natalie and Dr. Truelove are working on a project that focuses on recycling behaviors by individuals and organizations. As a result of her research experiences with Dr. Truelove, Natalie has presented 3 separate posters at 5 research conferences, including the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC), the Southeastern Psychological Association’s (SEPA) Annual Meeting, and U-GLIDE and SOARS, UNF’s fall and spring on-campus symposia. After she graduates this August, Natalie plans to pursue a graduate degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and become a Board-Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA). By becoming a BCBA, Natalie's goal is to work with neurologically and developmentally disabled children between the ages of 3 and 14. Natalie’s advice to anyone wanting to gain research experience is to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to professors. “Professors are going to be looking for students who are willing to learn along the way and work hard. [So,] get to know your professors and familiarize yourself with different areas of research.” 

March 2024: Charlotte Arechederra

Charlotte Arechederra and Dr. Jenny Stuber March 2024 Researchers of the Month

Charlotte Arechederra is a sophomore currently triple majoring in sociology, psychology, and English. They have been working with Dr. Jenny Stuber from the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work (SASW) since their first year at UNF on a research project investigating how nonbinary students navigate through instances of deadnaming and misgendering on their college campuses. Now, they are working on a new project with Dr. Stuber that examines diversity, equity, and inclusion and counterspaces. Charlotte has published their work in volume 4 of PANDION: The Osprey Journal of Research and Ideas and presented their data at the 2023 Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Symposium and the 2024 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC), both of which were held on the UNF campus. Through their experiences working with Dr. Stuber, Charlotte has discovered a love for the research process and has found excitement in conducting literature reviews, interviewing participants, and analyzing qualitative data. After they graduate in spring 2026, Charlotte plans to pursue a PhD in either Sociology or Social Psychology so they can further their research and serve as a research mentor to future students. Charlotte encourages developing researchers to “not be afraid to reach out. If you see an opportunity to join a research group but you’re not sure that you’re qualified, just reach out and see. The worst they can say is no.”  

February 2024: Austin Anderson

austin standing in front of poster

Austin Anderson is a senior physics major who has been engaged in several research projects. Working with Dr. Brian Lane in the UNF Department of Physics, he led an investigation of how students learn to code, from which he has a first-author publication in the journal Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings and participated in an investigation of students’ experiences in an introductory physics course, the results of which were presented at the American Association of Physics Teachers Summer Meeting and are published in Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings. Austin also worked with Drs. Greg Wurtz and Chris Kelso in the UNF Department of Physics to develop techniques for supernova neutrino and dark matter detection, as well as plasmonic meta-materials with enhanced ultrafast optical properties that may have applications in the health industry, information technologies, energy production, and national defense. Most recently, Austin received a grant to participate in the Summer Opportunity for Learning About Research (SOLAR) program at UNF, through which he created multilayer nanoscale films and patches for testing plasmon forming conditions and optical properties of the deposited interface. In addition to these activities, Austin has been a physics supplemental instructor and physics and math tutor at UNF, and an instructor at the Mathnasium Learning Center in Jacksonville.  Austin presented his various research projects at on-campus symposia including SOARS 2023 and ARISE 2023, as well as the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC) in Miami Springs, Florida in February 2023, and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in April 2023.  He represented the UNF OUR at the 2024 Florida Undergraduate Research Leadership Summit (FURLS) held in Gainesville, Florida on February 2-3 and will present two posters at FURC 2024, at UNF on February 16-17.  Austin enjoys seeing the depth of the field of optics and physics and appreciates how much he still needs to learn to become a professional in the field.  Austin graduates this May and has accepted a fellowship to pursue a PhD at the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL) at the University of Central Florida, where he will study nano-optics and nanoscale new-age energy transport and management systems. He appreciates that “the efforts put forth into research and school have begun to pay back.”

January 2024: Fudhail Sayed

January Research of the Month Fudhail SayedFudhail Sayed is a senior behavioral neuroscience major who has been engaged in several research projects.  He participated in an investigation of neural signatures in autism spectrum disorder with Dr. Lisa Byrge in the UNF Department of Psychology, a project on which he is still associated.  Fudhail also participated in a summer clinical research internship in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Florida in summer 2022 and then the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program at the Mayo Clinic Florida in summer 2023.  Through the UNF – Mayo Clinic Undergraduate Biomedical Research Internship (U-BRI) program, he worked with Dr. Beatriz I. Fernandez-Gil, Ph.D. in the laboratory of Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, M.D., in the Mayo Clinic Florida Department of Neurosurgery to study tau propagation in Alzheimer's disease in mice and more recently, the effects of varying nutrient levels on the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway in glioblastoma, a type of brain cancerThis accomplished undergraduate has presented his research at on-campus events at UNF and the Mayo Clinic Florida and recently presented a poster at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) in Phoenix, Arizona in November 2023, at which he won an award in the cancer biology discipline.  Fudhail notes that “In research you can't escape failure, no matter what talent or experience you hold, you’re bound to fail.  However, you persist in your efforts, maintaining confidence that your endeavors will ultimately prove rewarding. This facet of research instills humility and simultaneously forges resilience in you, such that mere failure is not sufficient to deter your pursuit.”  Fudhail will graduate at the end of the spring 2024 semester and pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. in cancer biology or neuroscience

December 2023: Johanna Asencio-Morcillo, Paola Ramos Maysonet, and Alondra Solares

December 2023 Undergraduate Researcher of the MonthJohanna Asencio-Morcillo, a junior majoring in International Studies and Spanish, Paola Ramos Maysonet, a sophomore Spanish major, and Alondra Solares, a sophomore majoring in both Spanish and French and Francophone Studies, with their mentors Dr. Constanza López Baquero and Dr. Clayton McCarl in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, recently presented a panel entitled “Aproximaciones digitales para visibilizar la presencia hispana en el norte de Florida” (“Digital Approaches to Making Visible the Hispanic Presence in North Florida”) at the Sixth Meeting of Digital Humanists in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in November. The three students discussed their work with two UNF-based digital public humanities projects: Voces y Caras: Hispanic Communities of North Florida, which was exhibited at the UNF Art Gallery in April and during Hispanic Heritage Month, and coloniaLab, a workshop for collaborative digital editing that publishes archival texts online. In their panel presentation, Johanna, Paola, and Alondra discussed ways that both Voces y Caras and coloniaLab bring attention to the role that Hispanic populations have played in north Florida in both the past and the present.

November 2023: Vic Hayes

Vic Hayes standing with her research posterVic Hayes is a senior anthropology major who has been working with Dr. Keith Ashley in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work for more than a year.  This past summer, Vic served as a field assistant for the Archaeological Field Methods class, for which she received a Transformational Learning Opportunity Summer Scholarship from the College of Arts and Sciences.  During that time, she also received a Timucuan Preserve Student Research Grant, which allowed her to topographically map and then excavate two mounded shell formations at the Cedar Point North archaeological site.  She also performed an in-depth analysis of all pottery unearthed.  Vic and Dr. Ashley jointed presented the results of this study at the 2023 Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in October and she will present a paper of their findings at the 2024 Timucuan Science and History Symposium in January.  Vic indicated that she enjoyed participating in all aspects of the archaeological project, from research design to fieldwork and analysis, and finally, to reporting the findings.  Through these experiences, she enhanced her knowledge base, as well as her written communication skills.  Dr. Ashley indicated that Vic “epitomizes the new breed of American Archaeologists: bright, empirically based, theoretically informed, and empathetic to the concerns and human rights of modern-day Indigenous peoples.”  Next, Vic will begin her undergraduate honors thesis, in which she will analyze ceramic variability and site activities using pottery collected within the Mill Cove Complex archaeological site.  For students interested in participating in undergraduate research, Vic recommends that they talk to professors with similar research interests as them.  In her experience, “professors at UNF have always been more than willing to help students pursue independent research as well as assist them in achieving their career goals.” After graduation, Vic plans to attend graduate school to pursue a PhD and a career in academic archaeology

Inside UNF: Osprey Profile

October 2023: Hana Kabil

Hana wearing a red dress and standing in front of a research poster.

Hana Kabil is a senior biology major/literature minor who has been working with Dr. Amy Lane in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry since the summer of 2021 to identify novel natural products from Nocardiopsis bacteria for use as new antibiotics. Hana is trained in high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and nuclear resonance mass spectroscopy (NMR), which she used to determine the structures of two novel alpha pyrones. Hana was awarded an Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (U-RSCA) grant from the UNF Office of Undergraduate Research in Fall 2022 to support her studies. She has presented her results at several venues, including the 2023 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC) held in Miami Springs, the 2023 Showcase of Osprey Achievements in Research and Scholarship (SOARS) and the 2023 Achievements in Research, Inquiry and Scholarship Exhibition (ARISE) held on the UNF campus, and at the Johnson & Johnson symposium as a Johnson & Johnson summer undergraduate research intern during the Summer 2023 semester. In addition, Hana was selected for the UNF – Mayo Clinic Undergraduate Biomedical Research Internship (U-BRI) during the 2022 – 2023 academic year, through which she investigated the role of ECT2 Isoforms in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC) transformation under the guidance of Dr. Verline Justilien. Through those studies, she was trained in various molecular biology techniques.  Hana said that “the best part of research is the immense knowledge you gain.” She encourages other students to get involved in research because “you never know your chances of success unless you try.” Hana will graduate in December and plans to pursue a combined M.D.-Ph.D. to join her love of medicine and biochemical research to combat infectious diseases.

September 2023: Adrian Ross

september-2023-adrian-rossAdrian Ross is a junior double majoring in English and Philosophy.  They worked with Dr. Jonathan Matheson in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies on a research project that investigated the extent to which we should consider an artist's intentions when interpreting a work.  Although originally begun as a class project, Adrian worked with Dr. Matheson through numerous stages of revision to prepare an essay that stemmed from their attempt to reconcile the themes of a story perceived by Adrian as compared to the themes indicated by the original author.  Adrian’s essay not only won the outstanding student paper prize for Philosophy but is also set to be published in volume 4 of PANDION: The Osprey Journal of Research and Ideas.  Dr. Matheson applauds Adrian’s ability to accept constructive criticism and make revisions.  During the research experience, Adrian enjoyed reading texts on a deeper level to discern the arguments within, seeing it like a puzzle.  Adrian encourages others to “approach your education with not just a willingness to learn something new, but also to be open about being wrong about things. It's okay to be wrong and to learn from it.”

August 2023: Haley Peters  

August 2023 Researcher of the MonthHaley Peters is a senior biochemistry major / psychology minor who has been working with Dr. John Hatle in the Department of Biology for the past year to study the metabolic effects of a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) restricted diet. Her initial study with Dr. Hatle showed that low dietary levels of one BCAA – isoleucine – increases the breakdown of other BCAAs like valine and leucine. Haley recently presented the results of that study at the 2023 Achievements in Research, Inquiry and Scholarship Exhibition (ARISE), which was held in July on the UNF campus. Using the data collected from the initial study, Haley designed a study in which she will quantify this catabolism by feeding Eastern Lubber grasshoppers custom cooked diets and then testing the breath samples from those grasshoppers using a specialized spectrophotometer. She secured an Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (U-RSCA) grant from the UNF Office of Undergraduate Research in Spring 2023 to carry out her study. Not only is Haley considered the “local expert at running the instrument,” she also leads a team of two other students, which has helped her hone her communication and organizational skills. Dr. Hatle noted that research students like Haley, who excel at reading and understanding primary literature and at the lab bench, are rare. Haley intends to graduate from UNF in Spring 2024 and will apply to medical programs at that time. She credits her research experience as the most influential experience of her undergraduate career. “Seeing a research project develop from reviewing literature to experimental design to presenting results is rewarding and has provided depth to my interest in coursework and other sectors of science.”

July 2023: Sadana Mukundan and Ziena Baker  

Photo of Ziena and Sadana standing in front of a non-descript wallZiena Baker and Sadana Mukundan are senior Psychology majors who have worked with Dr. Elizabeth Brown for the past several years. Together, they studied how language used (like that found in a mission statement) influences opinions of diversity, equality, and inclusion. The results of their study were presented in poster form at the 2023 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference in Miami Gardens, Florida, and on campus at SOARS 2023. Dr. Brown credits these developing scientists with a dedication to research and enthusiasm for coding and analyzing data. In addition to this project, Ziena also contributes to an ongoing study on elementary school students. Sadana has also worked with Dr. Brown on other projects, through which they analyzed political party stereotypes and whether goal fulfillment in STEM affects students’ interests and motivations to pursue a STEM career. Both students have a goal of attending graduate school. Ziena intends to pursue a combined Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and Social Psychology. She hopes to continue research in a scientist-practitioner environment to apply social studies to clinical outcomes. Sadana intends to pursue a Master of Science degree in Clinical or Counseling Psychology. She has gained considerable experience in data analysis, which she found to be the most enjoyable part of her research experience. Ziena has enjoyed working with others to code qualitative data into quantitative data and has gained considerable leadership and organizational skills in the process. Both describe themselves as passionate about their research and encourage others to ask questions, get involved, and be patient, as the overall experience is truly rewarding.

June 2023: Andrew Gomez

Andrew Gomez posing with his project poster

 Andrew Gomez is a senior kinesiology major who will graduate this Summer 2023 semester.  Andrew has been working with Dr. Lindsay Toth in the Brooks College of Health for the past two years and has been involved in several studies.  He and a graduate student in the research group performed a validation study on wearable activity monitors that track heart rate and step count during various exercises and intensities.  They presented the results of their study at the International Conference on Ambulatory Monitoring of Physical Activity and Movement (ICAMPAM) in Keystone, Colorado, and the Southeast Chapter – American College of Sports Medicine (SEACSM) conference in Greenville, South Carolina.   More recently, Andrew has taken on his own project in which he is validating VO2max or maximal oxygen consumption, which is a predictor of successful solid organ transplants and a best measure of cardiorespiratory fitness in athletes.  Andrew was awarded an Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (U-RSCA) grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research for this project and presented his preliminary data at SOARS 2023.  Dr. Toth indicated that “his sense of inquiry and drive to complete the project through publication is outstanding.”  Andrew said that conducting a review of the literature and going through the IRB approval process were important skills for him to acquire, as were data collection and statistical analysis.  He also gained an appreciation for conducting research by listening to “Stronger by Science” podcasts.  After graduation, Andrew plans to join the Air Force as a commissioned officer and continue his education.  He encourages developing researchers to take every opportunity available to be involved and establish strong connections with professors who conduct research in the field that interest you.

April 2023: Jeffrey Perera

April 2023 Undergraduate Researcher of the Month

 Jeffrey Perera is a sophomore biomedical sciences major and member of the Hicks Honors College.  Jeffrey has gained considerable research experience in the short time he has been at the University of North Florida.  He has worked in the laboratory of Dr. Judy Ochrietor in the Department of Biology to study the expression of Basigin protein in mouse intestinal samples and with Dr. Amber Barnes in the Department of Public Health to understand disease transfer between humans and animals.  In addition, he spent the summer 2022 semester in San Francisco, California, in the laboratory of Dr. Alex Marson at the University of California San Francisco Gladstone Institute of Genomic Immunology to study CRISPR technology in cancer cells.  Jeffrey currently serves as an intern in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Storz at the Mayo Clinic Florida through the UNF-Mayo Clinic Undergraduate Biomedical Research Internship (U-BRI) program.  There, he has been studying human and mouse pancreatic macrophages for the past two semesters.   Jeffrey has presented the results of his various studies on campus at the SOARS and U-GLIDE symposia, at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference held in Orlando, Florida in February 2022, and at the Biomedical Engineering Society conference in San Antonio, Texas in October 2022.  Jeffrey was recently awarded an impressive Goldwater Scholarship, which was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.  In addition to his research activities, Jeffrey is the co-founder of, which is a nonprofit website that sells stickers to support over 60 different social, environmental, health, and educational movements through donation of the profits.   Jeffrey said that he loves “to see people who take the initiative, big or small, to leave behind a positive legacy during their time in this world.”

March 2023: Thalia Lynn

March 2023 Undergraduate Researcher of the Month

 Thalia Lynn is a senior Anthropology major and Environmental Studies minor.  She has been working with Dr. Jacqueline Meier since the summer of 2021 to study sheep herding at the famous site of Mycenae in Greece.  Additionally, through an independent study, she analyzed faunal remains from Helladic Lerna, Greece, using published data from Dr. David S. Reese.  Thalia learned to transcribe published descriptions into her own dataset, separate individual animal bone specimens by attribute, and understand variation within the space of the site.  Through this, she has been able to reconstruct the role of animal ritual, dietary practices, and refuse management within that culture.  Thalia also contributed to the research of Dr. Keith Ashley by excavating archaeological sites in Jacksonville to better understand the Indigenous histories of this region and conducted an experimental archaeology project to better understand how pottery was made in the past in northeast Florida.  Dr. Meier praises Thalia for her various research activities, saying that she sets a great example for other students of how to engage in a variety of different research projects.  Thalia has presented her research findings at the annual Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Research Symposium, SOARS, and Student-Led Research Projects Presentations on campus, and at the annual meeting of the Archaeology Institute of America, in New Orleans in January and the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference held at St. Thomas University in February.  Additionally, she will present as a co-author with Dr. Meier at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archaeology in Portland, Oregon, at the end of March.  After graduation this spring, Thalia plans to continue her education and pursue a PhD in Zooarchaeology.  She encourages others to follow their passionsadding that the type of hard work and consistency that good research requires becomes easier to maintain when you have a genuine interest in what you do. 

February 2023: Lily Miller and Sydney Williams

Febuary 2023 Undergraduate Researchers of the MonthLily Miller is a senior Exceptional Student Education major and Sydney Williams is a senior Special Education major with a minor in Disability Services. They have been working with Dr. David Hoppey since taking his Introduction to Inquiry and Assessment course in 2021. Working as a team, they performed an assessment of their teaching internship experience. The results of their inquiry were presented in October at the Florida Council for Exceptional Children Conference and published in PANDION: The Osprey Journal of Research and Ideas, volume 3. According to Dr. Hoppey, the study was well received by special education faculty and administrators from across the state, and both students have been recruited by multiple school districts because of their work. Both Lily and Sydney found that their experience strengthened their skills in data recording and analyses and gave them an opportunity to think critically about teaching. Sydney indicated that “inquiry helps teachers make improvements to their teaching and their classroom.” Similarly, Lily noted that conversations with professionals in their field of study will ultimately “improve our practices for students.” After completing their undergraduate degrees in Spring 2023, Lily plans to pursue a graduate degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, whereas Sydney hopes to have her own classroom in a high school teaching Specific Learning or Participatory Learning, before her graduate training. Both encourage others to get involved in research because it “gives you the opportunity to dive into subjects” that interest you. Although it may be intimidating at first, “the work you put into it is so rewarding and worth it.”

January 2023: Amra Kajdic 

January 2023 Undergraduate Researcher of the MonthAmra Kajdic is a senior pursuing a biology degree and biotechnology certificate who is on track to graduate with Summa Cum Laude and Hicks Honors College honors in Spring 2023. Amra has been working with Dr. David Waddell since 2020 and has been involved in several studies. She has been instrumental in characterizing the UBR5 and Calcoco 1 genes, which code for proteins important for muscle hypertrophy and recovery from atrophy, respectively and will be included as a coauthor on the manuscripts describing those gene products when the projects are completed. Amra presented her research data in poster format at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in Washington, D.C., in December and intends to present at the 2023 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference in Miami in February. Dr. Waddell credits her as one of the more advanced, talented, and productive undergraduate students in his research program. Amra found that her undergraduate research experiences have allowed her to grow as a scientist and develop expertise in molecular-genetic techniques. She is eager to learn more and develop a broader set of techniques and hopes to be selected for a Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award at the National Institutes of Health before applying for medical school. In her time involved with research, she has learned that patience and perseverance are crucial and that there is much value gained from experiments that do not always go as planned, as one continuously learns even (especially) when things go unexpectedly. Amra is a well-rounded student who volunteers at the Muslim American Social Services (MASS) Clinic and readily trains other undergraduate students in the lab. She founded the MEDLIFE club at UNF and has served as the President for three years. Amra encourages developing scientists to not limit themselves because “with hard work and dedication anything is possible.” She also encourages them to be creative, as troubleshooting is a vital skill in research.  

December 2022: Nicholas Strasser 

December 2022 Undergraduate Researcher of the Month

Nicholas Strasser is a senior biology major who graduates this month.  Nicholas has been working with Dr. John Hatle since 2021 to study how protein quality impacts metabolism related to lifespan, reproduction, and development.  They generate synthetic diets with unique amino acid concentrations to determine how protein composition improves life-history traits of Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers. This project is time-intensive, and Dr. Hatle commends him for his dedication to the project, his careful manipulations and analyses, and his perseverance.  Nicholas presented his research data in poster format at the U-GLIDE Symposium on campus and will present again in January at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.  Nicholas found that his undergraduate research experience allowed him to develop an ability to gather data, synthesize ideas and conclusions, and present results in a concise manner.  His time in the Hatle lab prepared him to be an effective scientific communicator and investigator.  These qualities will be an asset as he matriculates in a medical school program next fall.  In addition to his research endeavors, Nicholas serves as a physics and biology SI leader and a member of the SASS leadership team.  He is the current president of the Biomedical Pre-professionals club and volunteers at the Muslim American Social Services (MASS) Clinic and ProMedica Hospice.  He encourages developing scientists to be confident because from his own experiences, he’s learned that through confidence, he was able to “excel far beyond what I thought was possible.” 

November 2022: Rebecca Robinson Rey

Rebecca Robinson Rey with here poster

Rebecca Robinson Rey is a senior physics major, with a concentration in astrophysics. As a member of Dr. Chris Kelso’s research program, Rebecca studies the detection of satellite dwarf galaxies and how those data can predict dark matter in the universe. Using Monte Carlo modeling, she was able to determine the number of satellites from data captured using Dark Energy Survey (DES) and Pan STARRS1 (PS1) and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which map galaxies near earth. She intends to use similar modeling to predict the detection of new satellite dwarf galaxies by the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) telescope, and hence dark matter, in the deep universe. Rebecca enjoys learning about cosmological aspects of the universe and developing her coding skills through this project. Previously, Rebecca worked with Dr. John Hewitt to analyze data from star clusters captured using the Fermi-Large Area Telescope (LAT). In addition to her research interests, Rebecca serves as the vice president of the UNF Society of Physics Students, through which she also volunteers her time as a peer tutor. She has presented her research data at the Natural Sciences Poster Session and was a featured speaker at Spooky Research, which was organized by the UNF Research Ambassadors Club. After graduation, Rebecca plans to attend graduate school to pursue a PhD in either astrophysics or medical physics.

October 2022: Sydney Chatani

sydney holding her thesis

Sydney Chatani is a Hicks Honors College senior studying sociology, with a minor in leadership. As a member of Dr. Jenny Stuber’s research program, Sydney studied parental and gender roles among young widowers, which is a novel topic in the field of sociology research. She presented her findings at the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Student Symposium in April and in a round table discussion at the American Sociological Association meeting in August. In addition, Sydney served as a research assistant at the UNF Northeast Florida Center for Community Initiatives, under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Will, on Magnolia Project: Federal Healthy Start Initiative on Infant Mortality in Jacksonville. Through that experience, she learned about the social and environmental determinants of health and how individuals lacking resources often “slip through the cracks.” Currently, Sydney is working on a quantitative research project exploring the potential association of demographic factors with individuals’ confidence levels in the United States Supreme Court. After graduation, Sydney plans to attend graduate school to pursue a PhD in sociology, focusing on qualitative methodology and the subfields of applied, family, and medical sociology. She feels lucky to have received support and opportunities at UNF and wants to give future undergraduates the same opportunities someday.

September 2022: Alex Bartkowiak 

alex standing by his research board at a conferenceAlex Bartkowiak is a senior studying Molecular/Cell Biology and Biotechnology in Biology.  He is the head undergraduate researcher for a neuropharmacology pilot program in the laboratory of Dr. Marie Mooney, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology.  Alex uses a bioinformatics pipeline to decipher large transcriptomic data sets from neurons isolated from zebrafish exposed to neuroactive compounds like Ivermectin and Gaboxadol.  His passion and excitement for science is recognized and praised by his research mentor and appreciated by his peers in the lab, who see him as a role-model. Alex has always loved science, which motivated him to compete in regional and state science fairs in middle and high school and work in a research lab before advancing to college. As an undergraduate student, Alex has presented his work at the Posters at the Capitol event hosted by the Florida Undergraduate Research Association, the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC), and the Showcase of Osprey Advancements in Research and Scholarship (SOARS).  After graduation, Alex plans to attend graduate school to pursue a PhD in cognitive neuroscience.  This accomplished young scientist intends to pursue a graduate degree, “with the ultimate goal of being able to give students the same opportunities that I had.”

August 2022: Hannah Thomas

hannah thomas in front of a board with her research

 Hannah Thomas is a senior studying Behavioral Neuroscience.  Under the guidance of Dr. Katherine Hooper and Dr. Tracy Alloway, Hannah has been involved in several projects in the fNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy) laboratory though which she measures cortical activity from participants engaged in cognitive and emotional processing tasks. According to her research mentors, Hannah is “skilled with the technology and with reviewing the literature and is highly motivated to succeed.” In addition to being able to perform fNIRS on human subjects, Hannah helped develop the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) used in many of the fNIRS studies taking place on campus. Additionally, Hannah presented her work at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC), the Showcase of Osprey Advancements in Research and Scholarship (SOARS), and the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) annual meeting.  After graduation, Hannah plans to attend graduate school to pursue a PhD in cognitive neuroscience.

July 2022: Hannah Merritt

hannah merritt in front of her presentation

Hannah Merritt is a senior studying Anthropology and African American Studies. Under the guidance of Dr’s Gordon Rakita, Jacqueline Meier, and Jeff Chamberlain, Hannah’s research examines the correlation between the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak and West African mortuary practices. According to Dr. Rakita, Hannah has been actively engaged in undergraduate research since her first year at UNF, and “she has worked hard to find support for her research and disseminate the results of her work.” During the span of her undergraduate career, she has completed two Directed Independent Study courses, an undergraduate thesis, was awarded an OUR research grant, and presented her work at four professional conferences, including the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC), Florida Research Posters at the Capitol, the Showcase of Osprey Advancements in Research and Scholarship (SOARS), and the Florida Collegiate Honors Council conference. In the fall, she will continue her education at the University of York's Master of Science in Funerary Archaeology program.