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Statewide Student Research Conference Held at EFSC
February 24, 2018 - Nearly 700 people, the majority of them college students from across Florida, gathered at Eastern Florida State College’s Melbourne campus Saturday for the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, the largest event of its kind in the nation.
"It's an honor to be the first state college to host FURC," said EFSC Associate Biology Professor Dr. Ashley Spring who worked with colleague Scott Herber to bring the normally university-hosted conference to EFSC. "Bringing it here allows us to highlight Florida's Space Coast and EFSC to the best and brightest students from around the state and to graduate school recruiters from around the nation."
Some 400 students representing more than 30 colleges and universities from around Florida presented research during four poster sessions, with topics that encompassed multiple academic disciplines.
One of those was EFSC Biomedical Sciences bachelor's student Anthony Cervone who is studying the impact of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the Indian River Lagoon.
"There's antibiotic resistant bacteria found in places where children play and people fish for food and I wanted to do something to increase awareness and research the different ways that it's entering the Lagoon," said Cervone. "It's a great networking experience. It gives me insight to what's going to be expected of me in grad school."
FURC got underway Friday night with a keynote speech by Dr. Duane De Freese, the Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon Council, which is working to develop and implement a science-based restoration strategy for the threatened estuary system.
"My heart is in academics so I enjoyed talking about the power of scientific research and the moral and ethical responsibilities of science with this mix of university and state college undergraduate students at the beginning of their careers," said De Freese.
Also on Friday, EFSC Vice President for Academic/Student Affairs and Chief Learning Officer Dr. Linda Miedema told the students they are among the best and brightest young minds in the nation, helping define the future.
"When you leave, I know you will be brimming with new ideas and the knowledge that the research you are doing today is the foundation for what you will achieve tomorrow," said Miedema.
LouAnne Hawkins helped create the conference in 2010 when she was at the University of North Florida, starting with 150 poster presentations and growing into the nation's largest such conference, which also includes a variety of workshops.
"This is an opportunity to give undergraduates a safe environment to develop some of the communication and presentation skills that are so critical for them at the next stage," said Hawkins, who now leads the ARC Jacksonville.
"These are our next graduate students going on to medical school, law school and so forth and it's a venue for them to see it as a positive thing that you're really smart. As one student told me, 'I feel like I found my people.'"
Among the many first-time presenters at the conference is EFSC Biomedical Sciences bachelor's student Mack Crawford who's researching native Florida plants and their use in the medical field.
"It's exciting to get to compare my research to colleagues from around the state and get exposure to grad school," said Crawford. "The end game for me would be getting to continue my research on a larger scale with as many plant varieties as possible in graduate school."
Recruiters from nearly 30 universities were at the conference, encouraging students to apply for graduate school and summer research programs.
"We want to reach out and let them know about the great opportunity and dispel some of the myths about financial barriers," said Brandon Cook, a post-doctoral Fellow representing Notre Dame University. "A lot of people are not aware that even at a private university there can be full tuition options and stipends."
Planning is already under way for the 2019 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference scheduled for Feb. 22-23, 2019 at the University of North Florida.
To learn more about this year's event, including abstracts of the research presented, visit easternflorida.edu/furc