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AVON PARK, Fla. – May 30, 2019 – South Florida State College (SFSC) Honors Program student Anthony Zepeda was recently accepted into the Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations (PATHS-UP) summer research experience program at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami.
PATHS-UP’s vision is to develop new and cost-effective healthcare technologies and systems for underserved communities in the United States, particularly addressing chronic ailments such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As part of its mission, it offers a 10-week summer research experience program to undergraduate students, providing them the opportunity to conduct research at one of its four partner institutions—FIU, Texas A&M University, UCLA, and Rice University.
Now in his second week of the PATHS-UP research training experience, Zepeda works within a team of four students that is focusing on research of wearable sensing and imaging technologies. “We’re trying to measure blood pressure using optical technology, which moves away from the traditional blood pressure cuff,” he said. “Optical technology, such as in a wearable device, would allow for continuous monitoring of blood pressure and for real-time evaluation of the diseased state, as well as feedback for physicians and other healthcare providers.”
Zepeda, who anticipates graduating from SFSC with an Associate in Arts in May 2020, applied for the PATHS-UP summer experience after working on an undergraduate research project in biology with SFSC’s Dr. James R. Hawker Jr., interim dean of Arts and Sciences and chair of the Natural Sciences Department; Amy Bohan, instructor of biology; and Dr. Mintoo Patel, adjunct professor of biology.
“The PATHS-UP research project falls into biomedical engineering,” Zepeda said. “I thought it was a great fit for me—I plan to go into chemical engineering and wish to attend medical school. I thought because it was medical and engineering, it covers both paths.”
Zepeda is one of several students at SFSC who are involved in undergraduate research and, according to Dr. Hawker, participating in research engages students in learning. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “You give the students original literature on a problem in biology, for instance. They read it and come back to you with all these ideas that they’d like to try out. Research teaches them to think critically, to explore ideas, and to take ownership of what they’re learning. They’re proud of that. Also, if they’re transferring to a university, they’re much better prepared to do laboratory research. They’ll already know what it’s about.”
Currently, SFSC offers student research courses, especially in the natural sciences, through its Honors Program. As part of their grade, an Honors student in general chemistry or biology may be required to complete an extra research project for the semester. SFSC also offers Special Topics courses in biology and chemistry, as electives, in which students can participate in a research project for a semester and earn credit.