Conferences – Christian Pilot at American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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Honors student, Christian Pilot, recently presented his research project, Buffer Therapy for Cancer, that he has been working on at Moffit Cancer Center, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Chicago.  This presentation is part of his ongoing research into foods that can provide a buffering effect against the acid used by cancer cells to weaken and kill surrounding cells in order to spread.

Honors Conferences – Zachary Gregg at the American Chemical Society National Meeting

Zachary Gregg at the American Chemical Society National Conference
Zachary Gregg at the American Chemical Society National Conference

The Spring 2017 American Chemical Society National Meeting almost felt like the culmination of my undergraduate chemistry career. I was able to share my work with my peers from all over the country as well as immerse myself in the fascinating research of my peers. The topics presented ranged from probing how students can better learn chemistry in the classroom to developing a precursor for a more durable, data-dense hard drive. It is always inspiring to see the incredible work being done by others, and I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to practice explaining the details and significance of my work, a skill I will need as I grow as a student and academic.

The highlight of the conference was being able to see top researchers present in my field. Dr. Bruce Lipshutz, whose work inspired the research I do at UT, lectured on his recent work that allows reactions to be performed with dramatically less waste, often with a higher efficiency. His talk put my work into perspective: my research is not just the outcomes of individual experiments, but rather a part of a larger search to find more environmentally friendly ways of performing chemical reactions.

Honors Conferences – Ashley Morales-Pacheco

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Honors student Ashley Morales-Pacheco recently traveled with Honors Program Directors Ryan Cragun and Kacy Tillman to Asheville, North Carolina for the Southern Regional Honors Council conference.  At the conference, Ashley presented her paper “The Effects of a Multiparty System on U.S. Polarization.”  The paper describes how the “first past the gate” political system in the US is likely contributing to increased political polarization in the US.

While in Asheville, we were able to visit the Biltmore Estate and go for a hike, as shown in the pictures above.

Honors Conferences – Nicholas Braganca

Nick Braganca at American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting
Nick Braganca at American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting

Attending the American Association for Cancer Research’s 2017 Annual Meeting was one of the highlights of both my senior year and my time here at UT. Being able to present the prostate cancer research I’ve performed at UT with prostate cancer experts from around the world had a profound impact on me. I not only got to inform oncologists from around the world about what I’ve discovered here at UT, but I was able to learn from and engage in discourse with prostate cancer scientists about what they’ve found in their own research.

I attended several talks on cancer biology and treatments, as well as speeches by Vice President Joe Biden and current Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, giving me the opportunity to learn about new developments in cancer research and how cancer can impact everybody in the world. This meeting has left me inspired to continue my own prostate cancer research project with relentless fervor, knowing that my work can contribute to a better understanding of prostate cancer biology, and hopefully, have a positive impact on those afflicted with prostate cancer.

Conferences – Florida Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Jacksonville

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Three Honors students, Nola Berish, Melisa Blasky, and Lauren Twele, presented some of their research at the Florida Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Jacksonville, FL on February 25th.  In addition to presenting their research, the three students participated in deliberative democracy forums, saw other Honors students from across the state present their research, explored the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art, and enjoyed several unique ethnic dining experiences.

Members of UT Honors Council attend NCHC Conference – Seattle 2016

Honors Council President, Laura Hearst, and Social and PR Chair, Kamakshi Dadhwal, accompanied Honors Program Director, Dr. Ryan Cragun, on a trip to the 2016 National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Seattle from October 12-16. NCHC provides a national collegiate platform for honors students and faculty members to present their respective research, brainstorm ideas for enhancing honors experience, and showcase artistic talents in master classes. We asked Dr. Cragun and the two students what they thought about the NCHC conference. Here’s what they told us.

Q. What did you think of the conference and the overall experience?

Dr. Cragun: As it was my first NCHC Conference, I found it very helpful. I’m in the process of re-thinking the entire Honors Program at The University of Tampa and hearing about other Honors Programs, their curricula, their activities, and their efforts to build a strong sense of community among their Honors Students was all really helpful. I learned a lot and came away with many ideas for how to make UT’s Honors Program even better.

Laura: I thought the conference was an overall wonderful experience that was eye opening to all of the opportunities honors student have and can take advantage of.

Kamakshi: The  NCHC conference opened the door to a whole new world of Honors, which I didn’t realise existed until I was immersed in the various sessions ranging from how to improve your Honors Program experience for first-year students to how to make the most of your Honors Program as a senior. Besides, who wouldn’t like to spend time getting to know professors, from all over the United States and abroad, outside of the classroom?

Sunshine in Seattle?


Q. What did you gain from the conference?

Dr. Cragun: I met and had a chance to talk with about half a dozen other Honors Program Directors. Speaking with those individuals about their programs and getting their thoughts on the Honors Program at UT was very helpful.  All of them were very nice and I’m sure moving forward they will all be willing to provide helpful feedback when I need it. The professional connections I developed will, no doubt, prove to be invaluable in the future.
Laura: I learned a lot about how to improve the Honors Council and make a difference at UT.
Kamakshi: Although the conference was more geared towards faculty, it served us well to attend it because we have come back with wonderful ideas- some our own, but most of them courtesy of the various presenters at the conference- to make UT’s Honors Council events more inclusive of students from various disciplines.
Q. What was the best part of the trip for you?
Dr. Cragun: The best part of the conference for me was hanging out with the two Honors Program students from UT. Traveling with students provides a great opportunity to get to know students on a deeper level. I learned a lot about both of the students and gained an appreciation for just how great UT Honors Program students are. Of course, what I loved the most is that I learned about some of the quirks of the students, too, like the fact that Laura won’t step on grates on sidewalks (even if it means getting wet in the rain) and Kamakshi is an Indian princess who flashes gang signs. Awesome!
Laura ate a fruit she didn’t know, on Dr. Cragun’s impish advice.
Laura: My favorite part of the trip was seeing the first Starbucks store in the world. [Laura and Kamakshi ran in the cold rain and harsh wind to make it to Starbucks 9 minutes before it closed on their last night in Seattle; just in time to get themselves “First Starbucks Store” mugs.]
First Starbucks Ever!
Kamakshi: The chance to visit the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was my favourite part. The Gates family is inspirational in their intelligent altruism, which not only funds countless projects that help alleviate global crises in many domains, but also sponsors research to find definitive solutions specifically to worldwide health problems. They’re currently working on injecting infected mosquitoes with a bacteria, Wolbachia, in an attempt to find a cure to Zika. Just knowing that they care to put their abundance of wealth into improving health, reaffirmed my faith in humanity. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Cragun and Laura’s company. I had expected to get to know them better, but I hadn’t expected them to find a place in my heart, as friends.
Gates Foundation with actual FALL in the background!

AACS Conference – Ashley Jensen, Melissa Reeve, and Summer Himmelberger

From left to right: Summer Himmelberger, Melissa Reeve, and Ashley Jensen.
From left to right: Summer Himmelberger, Melissa Reeve, and Ashley Jensen.

Three UT Honors Program students recently competed in the AACS Client Problem Solving Competition.  The problem was introduced during the first day of the conference and students had only two days to come up with their solutions. This year’s problem involved a local service agency in Denver, the ECDC-ACC. They work in the area of refugee resettlement and are facing a severe shortage of affordable housing for incoming refugee families. To compound the problem, refugees have been stigmatized as risky tenants for two reasons: first, there have been a few incidences where residents have unknowingly taken actions that caused damage to the property (e.g. cooking fish in the dishwasher, washing cooking oil down sink drains, placing hot pots on the floor as families gathered for traditional-style meals), and second, the State Department covers refugee housing for only their first three months, and after that, while refugees still receive financial assistance for living expenses, there is nothing set aside for housing in particular, and the total monthly allowance is not enough to cover the rent in full alongside everyday expenses. Refugees’ only option is to try become employed as quickly as possible. Yet, given limited language proficiency, a laborer job that offers more than the minimum wage is unlikely. So, not only is there a shortage of affordable housing, there is also a reluctance to lease those spaces to refugee families as well, in addition to the critical issue of employment that pays a family wage.

To better understand the problem, our students went to the ECDC-ACC and interviewed both the housing specialist as well as the jobs specialist and learned in-depth about all their programs as well as the challenges they faced. We learned that the ECDC-ACC operates a thrift store that is both frequented by refugees for household supplies as well as largely run by former refugees themselves. So we went to the store and spoke with several refugees about their experiences adjusting and integrating into the Denver community. From their perspective, there didn’t seem to be a shortage of housing in the area, just a shortage of housing they could afford on a minimum wage. In addition, in many families, only one adult member of the household worked outside the home, as the second adult member cared for the many young children common to the refugee family composition. From there we visited the housing resettlement areas and saw the low-rise multi-family dwellings that were in such demand. There were community gardens, children playing in the field behind the housing area, and small groups of people enjoying ice cream cones from a nearby shop. By the day’s end, our students had developed a much deeper understanding of the problems as well as inspiration to develop viable solutions. They didn’t want to just participate in the competition anymore, it was so much more, they had become invested in really coming up with a solution that could help improve the lives of refugee families.

Our team developed both short- and long-term solutions. The short-term ideas were aimed at helping refugee tenants take care of their rental properties and utilizing social media to facilitate the ECDC-ACC to connect with potential new landlords. Their long-term solutions were guided by theories of social capital. They came up with a list of initiatives that would develop bonds between tenants and property owners, new refugees and existing refugee families, between the refugee community and other social institutions such as places of worship, schools, and workplaces. They also proposed a micro lending enterprise after their research showed that it had worked in a similar situation in Oregon. Specifically, there are only two places in Denver where Muslim women may purchase head scarves. The ECDC-ACC already had a sewing group in place as a community activity. Our team proposed creating a small business through making and selling the scarves with a micro loan. As you can see, our team had many creative and interesting ideas, all with an eye to thinking sociologically about the problems and solutions.

Ashley, Melissa, and Summer gave a theory-driven, field-researched, thoughtful and creative applied sociology presentation that received praise from faculty, practitioners, and fellow students alike. Miriam Broeri, the AACS organizer of the competition, indicated that the UT team was just a point or two away from winning. This is a great start for our program and I thank our three students for all their hard work and congratulate them for representing UT so well.

-Contributed by Lakshmi Jayaram, Assistant Professor of Sociology