By Wendy Sarubbi | May 24, 2012 2:55 pm

An interest in infectious diseases, an affinity for long hours in the lab, and a grandfather’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease are some reasons that inspired nine award-winning students from the UCF College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences.

Seven undergraduate and two graduate students from the Burnett school were recognized during 2012 Research Week in April. About 190 graduate researchers and 380 undergraduate researchers from UCF’s diverse colleges and disciplines participated.

Dr. Henry Daniell, Pegasus professor at the Burnett school, kicked off the event in a seminar where he shared his research about how genetically modified plants can cure diseases such as diabetes, hemophilia and polio. After his presentation, Dr. Daniell talked about student research today.

“When I was starting out, all these electronic tools and the Internet were not available,” he said.  “Students now have access to information around the clock.” However, a disadvantage of such tools is that it can be difficult for students to distinguish between what is real and what is false as information unfolds on Web sites and YouTube. Training students to hone their critical thinking skills is part of developing topnotch researchers, he said.

The Burnett school winners are:

Best in Category Graduate Research Forum

Life and Health Sciences:

  • Candice Baker, PhD in biomedical sciences; “Adrenergic Deficiency Leads To Impaired Energy Metabolism Co-Incident With Mid-Gestational Heart Failure”; mentor: Dr. Steven Ebert; co-author:  Kingsley Osuala, Ph.D.
  • Nirav Shah, MS in biotechnology;  “Role Of Akt1 And Akt2 In Ovarian Tumor Cell Growth And Metastasis”; mentor: Dr. Deborah Altomare; co-author: Lina Spinel

Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence

Life Sciences I

  • First Place: Patrick Cherubin, biomedical sciences; “Polyphenolic Compounds Of Grape Extract As Potential Inhibitors Of Cholera Toxin”; mentor: Dr. Kenneth Teter. Patrick said he became interested in this research because he was raised in Haiti and witnessed several disease outbreaks.
  • Second Place: Alexandra Ayache, biomedical sciences; “Amyloid-Beta42 Toxicity Reduction In Human Neuroblastoma Cells Using Cholera Toxin B Subunit-Myelin Basic Protein Expressed In Choloroplasts”; mentor: Dr. Henry Daniell. Alexandra chose this project because of the millions of people, including her grandfather, affected by Alzheimer’s.
  • Honorable Mention: Christopher Britt; “A Computational Approach To Elucidating The Mechanisms Of Bacterial Intoxication”; mentor: Dr. Kenneth Teter

Life Sciences II

  • First Place: Camila Diaz, biomedical sciences; “Mechanisms To Combat HIV Acquisition In The Female Reproductive Tract”; mentor: Dr. Alexander Cole. Dr. Cole, who noted that Camila, who will attend medical school at the University of Florida this fall, “worked in the lab 20-30 hours a week as an undergraduate volunteer.”
  • Honorable Mention: Erika Nafi-Valencia; “HSC70 Regulates The Formation Of Snare-Complex Required For VTV-Golgi Fusion”; mentor: Dr. Shadab Siddiqi

Life Sciences III

  • Second Place: Selina Sutchu, biomedical sciences; “Through Time And Space: Development Of A PhoA Gene Fusion Reporter System For Use In The Lyme Disease Spirochete Borrelia Burgdorferi”; mentor: Dr. Mollie Jewett. Dr. Jewett said Selina has worked in her lab for two years and strives for excellence in her work.
  • Honorable Mention: Abdul Rahim; “Proteomic Analysis Of The Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) Transport Vesicles”; mentor: Dr. Shadab Siddiq
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