AVON PARK, Fla. – March 5, 2021 – Nine South Florida State College (SFSC) students presented research at the 2021 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC) that was held this year in a virtual format.

FURC is one of the largest multi-disciplinary research conferences in the United States and is open to all undergraduate researchers in Florida to present their research in a poster format. The Conference offers college and university students presentation experience, networking opportunities, and professional development workshops. The February 2021 FURC was hosted by the Florida Undergraduate Research Association and Florida State University (FSU).

The SFSC students’ scientific research presentations for the conference were varied and, for the lay person, seemingly complex. Kyria Wickham and Kosha Upadhyaya researched genes that are involved in blood vessel formation and neuron function. Devan Patel assessed if high sugar affected the function of endothelial cells (cells that line blood vessels). Osbaldo Cisneros is looking at angiogenesis—blood vessel formation—and the potential influence that endothelial cells have on angiogenesis. Carl and Coralis Ewing are researching if freely circulating biomarkers in canine plasma influence both cardiovascular heart function and kidney function in canines. Angelique Robinson is researching if biomarkers from patient tissue can be used to test for colorectal cancer. Camila Rimoldi examined whether certain genes involved in sound generation, detection, or reception are also found in coral, as they may use sound for communication. Angela Huange is researching whether circadian rhythms (daily light and dark cycles) affect thyroid tumor cell metabolism and cancer gene expression.

Amy Bohan, SFSC biology instructor and Honors Program director, and Dr. James Hawker, dean of arts and sciences, presented a workshop at the conference that discussed how SFSC adjusted through the pandemic, keeping students engaged in undergraduate research.

“I’m pleased with how our students have adapted in times of this pandemic,” said Amy Bohan. “Not only have we been able to continue meeting biweekly via Zoom to discuss science-related papers, but we have been able to virtually meet once a month for our Undergraduate Research Forums at SFSC. Our students have been able to continue working in the lab in some capacity, which has allowed them to progress in their research. It is rewarding to see so many students from SFSC present their data in this new virtual format, as seen during FURC, held by FSU, on Feb. 26 and 27. We had a great turnout, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming Experimental Biology and Florida Academy of Science conferences, where we will also have students present their work.”

According to the FURC website, the benefits of undergraduate participation in research are many: it increases students’ logical and critical thinking skills; increases student retention, achievement, and persistence, especially for underrepresented groups; is associated with a stronger identity as a scientist; increases the likelihood of students pursuing a graduate degree; increases students’ self-confidence in designing and executing scholarly or research projects; and increases their overall satisfaction with their undergraduate educational experience.

For more information about undergraduate research at SFSC, contact Dr. James Hawker at 863-784-7329 or james.hawker@southflorida.edu.