University of South Florida

USF Health celebrates 30th Research Day with record number of poster submissions


The familiar sea of colorful research posters decorated the USF Tampa campus Marshall Student Center ballroom on the morning of Feb. 21. USF Health Research Day 2020 marked 30 years of showcasing the best interdisciplinary scholarly research from students, faculty and staff across all health disciplines.

USF Health Research Day 2020 marked 30 years of showcasing the best interdisciplinary scholarly research from across all health disciplines.


More than 340 poster presentations out of over 400 submissions were on display representing the profound span of research conducted within the colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy, as well as health-related collaborations with other USF colleges and several hospital affiliates. Research Day is the largest interdisciplinary research event at the University of South Florida, and both spotlights existing collaborations and encourages the formation of new ones.

Presentations ranged from pilot, preliminary, empirical and case studies to systemic reviews and reviews of literature or charts.

Yingwei Yang, doctoral student at the College of Public Health and one of the 12 Joseph Krzanowski Invited Oral Presenters, explains her poster presentation on the co-occurring impact of individual and community risk factors on youth’s perceived safety.

Stephen Liggett, MD, associate vice president for research at USF Health, welcomes attendees to Research Day 2020.

Stephen Liggett, MD, associate vice president for research at USF Health, described the poster presentation room as a “beehive” of activity and said, “the energy that you feel during Research Day is contagious. The enthusiasm that researchers have for their own work creates a special environment.”

The Roy H. Behnke keynote speaker was Allan Levey, MD, PhD, Betty Gage Holland Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology, Emory University, and Director, Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Dr. Levey presented, “Racing to a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.” Dr. Levey was excited to participate in USF Health’s Research Day, saying that Emory University does not currently have an event like it.

Deanna Chan discusses her poster presentation with keynote speaker, Allan Levey, MD, PhD.

The Roy H. Behnke keynote speaker was Allan Levey, MD, PhD, who presented on his Alzheimer’s disease research.

Dr. Levey is a neurologist and neuroscientist internationally recognized for his work in neurodegenerative disease. He has more than 270 research publications. His work has contributed to understanding the brain systems and mechanisms involved in neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and in identifying molecular targets for new therapeutic strategies.

Dr. Levey thinks about his passion for Alzheimer’s research at every graduation he attends. “If we don’t do something quickly, 1 out of every 2 of those graduates is going to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Levey said.

The goal in the USA National Plan is to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Dr. Levey urges interdisciplinary collaboration because he believes that what’s needed for Alzheimer’s research is “people from other fields to join and bring fresh ideas.”

Jasmine Carter and Miranda E. Essa, research assistants in the College of Nursing, set up their poster presentation on the adaption of a web-based intervention system specifically for firefighters and first responders.

Jasmine Carter and Miranda E. Essa, research assistants in the College of Nursing and recent USF graduates of psychology, were part of a team of seven whose research focused on tailored messages aimed towards firefighters for the web-based Tailored Intervention Messaging System (TIMS©). TIMS© is an existing intervention designed to increase cancer screening behavior, and the goal of Jasmine and Miranda’s study was to gather information specifically on firefighters to inform the adaption of this web-based intervention system. The chances of getting colorectal cancer, one of the most preventable of all cancers, is very high in a firefighter and first responder’s environment.

“Firefighters risk their lives for others, but it’s also important that they take care of themselves and get screened for colorectal cancer,” Carter said.

This presentation of research was a culmination of eight months of qualitative work into the risks and barriers for why firefighters and first responders often don’t receive annual colorectal screenings. Essa joined Carter at USF Health Research Day 2020 and was excited to see their research come together in a display.

“We are so excited and hyped to show off all this hard work we’ve been doing for the past eight months and to be able to explain it to people,” Essa said. “This is one of the few cancers you can genuinely prevent, so I think it’s really important information to get out there to everyone.”

Charles Lockwood, MD, MHCM, dean of the Morsani College of Medicine and senior vice president of USF Health, learns about Salma S. Abdelmaboud’s team’s research on sigma-1 receptors.

Salma S. Abdelmaboud, a research assistant in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, Morsani College of Medicine, presented research on the protective effects of the sigma-1 receptor on lymphatic endothelial cells. The study aimed to test the role of sigma-1 in lymphatic endothelial barrier function and explore its influence in lymphatic endothelial bioenergetics. Collectively, the results suggest that sigma-1 might serve as a potential future therapeutic target for the lymphatic system.

“This was my first time presenting my poster,” Abdelmaboud said. “Dr. Lockwood was the first person I presented my poster to, and I’m so happy that the dean liked what I did.” Abdelmaboud is applying for her PhD and is excited about her interview next week.

Byron Cheon, second-year medical student and one of the 12 Joseph Krzanowski Invited Oral Presenters, explains his poster presentation, “Open Data: Novel Uses and Old Ethical Concerns New Again.”

Tampa General Hospital, the primary teaching hospital for USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, ResearchOne and the USF Federal Credit Union, were the sponsors for USF Health Research Day 2020.

After attendees and the 124 volunteer judges had the chance to buzz around all the poster presentations and interact with the participants, the 11th Annual Joseph Krzanowski Invited Oral Presenters took their research to the Oval Theatre stage. Out of the 12 presenters, Kristi Miley, doctoral student, College of Public Health, won the Outstanding Oral Presentation Award for her presentation titled “Evaluation of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) Winter Activity in Florida.”

Kristi Miley (center), doctoral student, College of Public Health, won the Joseph Krzanowski, PhD Invited Oral Presentations Award. The USF Health Research Day TGH Presenting Sponsor Awards were presented by Sally H. Houston, MD (right), executive vice president and chief medical officer, and Matthew L. Anderson, MD, PhD (left), director of gynecologic oncology research.

The day-long celebration of research concluded with a ceremony announcing top award and certificate winners:

  • The Best Poster in the Field of:
    • Cardiovascular Biology
      • Julia Fedorova
    • Immunology and Microbiology
      • Ojas Natarajan
    • Molecular and Cellular Biology
      • Dante Deascanis
    • Neuroscience
      • Yan Yan
    • Other Clinical Research
      • Andrew Sephien
    • Nursing
      • Dorothie Durosier Mertilus
    • Other Basic Research
      • Olivia Hardy
  •  Medical Student Research:
    • Year 1, 2 (Basic Science)
      • Vineet Nadkarni
    • Year 1, 2 (Clinical / Translational Science)
      • John Cheng
    • Year 3, 4
      • Alexander Shahin
    • Case Study / Review Award
      • Zachary Makovich
  • Student Basic Sciences:
    • Doctoral Student Research
      • Helena Hernandez-Cuervo
    • COPH Doctoral Student Research
      • Nisha Vijayakumar
    • Masters Student Research
      • Mitchell Farmer
    • COPH Masters Student Research
      • Jan Dahrendorff
    • Undergraduate Student Research
      • Alexander Llauget
  • Student Clinical / Translational Sciences:
    • Doctoral Student Research
      • Alexandra Cochrane
    • COPH Doctoral Student Research
      • Kenneth Taylor
    • Masters Student Research
      • Amrita Unnikumaran
    • COPH Masters Student Research
      • Emma Hume
    • Undergraduate Student Research
      • Aizara Ermekbaeva
  • Post-Doctoral Scholar Research Award
    • Jea-Young Lee
  • The Community Research Award (COPH):
    • Doctoral Student Research
      • Marshara Fross
    • Masters Student Research
      • Davies Toluhi
  • The USF Health Dean’s Interdisciplinary Research Award
    • Caitlin Wolfe
  • The Outstanding Innovations in Medicine Award
    • Zeinab Motawe
  • The Outstanding 4th Year Medical Student Poster Award (Presented by Watson Clinic)
    • Yumna Ahmad
  • The Dr. Christopher P. Phelps Memorial Fund Annual Morsani College of Medicine Neuroscience Student Travel Award
    • Sara Cazzaro
  • The USF Federal Credit Union Best Poster in the Field of Cancer Biology Award
    • Roukiah Khalil
  • The Tampa General Hospital Travel Award for Clinical Fellows
    • David Gajzer
  • The Tampa General Hospital Outstanding Medical Resident Research Award
    • Evelena Cousin-Peterson
  • The Joseph Krzanowski, PhD Invited Oral Presentations Award
    • Kristi Miley


USF bulls pride from the Research Day 2020 award winners.

More highlights from Research Day 2020

-Photos by Freddie Coleman and video by Allison Long, USF Health Communications and Research

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