USF Hosts Graduate Research Symposium

Graduate students from eight universities compete and network during the statewide symposium at USF.


Karen Liller, (left) dean of the USF Graduate School and Jan Ignash,(right) vice chancellor for Academic Student Affairs for the State University System of Florida, present a certificate to USF doctoral student Mahmooda Pasha.  Photos: Melissa Wolfe | USF News

By Melissa Wolfe

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (April 23, 2013) – Determining the home range and habitat of the Eastern Indigo snake, measuring the particle sizes in Saturn’s outermost ring, and using MRI’s to gather preliminary data on Alzheimer’s effect on the brain, were just a few of the research projects exhibited at the Graduate Student Research Symposium on Friday.


Graduate students from from eight universities gathered at the University of South Florida April 19 to compete in the very first statewide Graduate Student Research Symposium.


The symposium, put on by the Florida Council of Graduate Deans, invited graduate students who had earned top marks in their category from their own respective university competition a chance to compete on a state platform. First and second place certificates were awarded in each of the seven categories: Arts and Humanities, Education, Health Sciences, Social Science, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Physics Sciences.


Karen Liller, dean of the Graduate School at USF and chair of the Florida Council of Graduate Deans, spearheaded the initiative to create a statewide research competition for graduate students.


“The Symposium is not about sheer competition,” said Liller. “It’s about networking, meeting other grad students, and seeing what they’re working on. This could set up many avenues for collaboration and new projects. Plus, it allows the students to judge where their research is in terms of the kind of quality work their peers are doing across the state.”


Marryam Khan, a graduate student studying at the University of Central Florida, presented her research, “Gender Dynamics from the Arab World: An Intercultural Service Encounter” at the symposium.


“I think it’s really interesting to meet people who share the same mental caliber and the same intellectual knowledge on these issues,” said Khan. “A faculty member from Florida Atlantic University already gave me her business card because she is doing research on Muslim people as well. I’m looking forward to collaborating with her on research in the future.”


Mahmooda Pasha, a doctoral student in the Community and Family Health program at USF, presented her research on factors impacting modern contraceptive use in Uganda.


“Uganda is the third fastest growing country in the world,” said Pasha. “It has around 29.6 million people. Of those people about 6 million are women of reproductive age. These women will typically have 6.7 children per woman, and give birth to10 to16 children - only 6 or 7 will actually survive.”


Pasha’s study aimed to understand the socio-economic variables that impact a woman’s decision to use modern contraception in Uganda. By understanding the various reasons behind the decision, Pasha hopes to tailor family planning programs to better fit the needs of women in the country.


“You can’t have a ‘one size fits all’ strategy,’ “ said Pasha. “A lot of times they implement a policy on the national level and expect it to go all the way down the district and community level. The alternative I’m proposing is the use of community based family planning - which is where you use a community health worker and they’re in the community and provide family planning methods, education, and referral to health facilities. “


Closing ceremonies included an address from USF President Judy Genshaft, Provost Ralph Wilcox, and participation certificates for all the graduate students who presented.


“Graduate students are the unsung heroes in big research breakthroughs,” said Genshaft. “I know at the University of South Florida some of our most important and high-profile research could not be accomplished without our graduate students.”



Arts and Humanities

1st place - Leah DeLorenzo, UCF, Parental Beliefs and Attitudes on Enrollment in a Dual Language Program at an Elementary School


2nd place - Jhoana Antiquino, FSU, A Narrative Traveling Exhibition of Homelessness and Design’s Potential to Create Change



1st place - Patrick Craanen, UCF, The Effect of a Self-Monitoring Treatment Intervention Package on the Academic Productivity Behavior of Three High School Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder


2nd place - Kimberly Kopnitsky, USFSP, The Effects of Peer Editing and Response in a First Grade Writer’s Workshop


Health Sciences

1st place - Terrick Andey, FAMU, Liposomal Annexin A2 Small Hairpin RNA –mediated Inhibition of Angiogenesis in Lung Cancer Stem Cells


2nd place - Rupak Dua, FIU, Interfacial Mechanical Properties Between Tissue Engineered Cartilage and Bone


Social Science

1st place - Mercedes Beaudoin, UCF, Prospective Solutions and Barriers of Integrating Sustainable Development into Local Planning and Management


2nd place - Stephanie Watts Randall, USF, The Relationship Between Voluntary Cough Production and Swallow Safety in Individuals with ALS


Biological Sciences

1st place - Tereza Vokata, FIU, Synthesis of Phenyleneethynylene-Doped Polys for Live Cell Imaging


2nd place Steven Jackson, FGCU, Determine Home Range Size and Habitat Use of a South Florida Population of Eastern Indigo Snakes Using Radio Telemetry



 1st place - Sarah Leonard, FSU, Solid-State NMR Evidence for β-Hairpin Structure Within MAX8 Designer Peptide Nanofibers


2nd place - Indranil Bhattacharya, FSU, Modeling of Antimony Based Novel Multijunction Solar Cell Having Higher Photon Absorption


Physics Sciences

1st place - Tracy Becker, UCF, Unique Solar Occultation Measures Particle Sizes in Saturn’s F Ring


2nd place - Yuba Bhandari, FIU, Structural Transformation and Aggregation of Cc-Beta Peptides into Amyloid Proto-Fibrils