A wide range of science filled the Ballroom at the Marshall Student Center, showcasing the groundbreaking work of rising research stars taking part in the annual USF Health Research Day.
This year’s event, held Feb. 19, featured nearly 330 students, residents, fellows and post-doctoral researchers from across USF Health.
“This event gets better every year,” said Phillip Marty, PhD, vice president for USF Health Research.
“I’m always impressed with the level of research that is presented at our Research Day,” Dr. Marty said. “Our faculty are engaged in important research, which translates directly to our students, graduate students, residents and trainees who are presenting here today. This is a great training ground for the rest of their careers.”
This year’s slate of presenters showed more students and trainees and slightly fewer faculty, Dr. Marty said, perhaps a reflection of the event’s return to its roots of showcasing science learners.
The day-long event brings together researchers from across all USF Health colleges, programs and disciplines, as well as guest researchers from USF programs studying the science of health. Beginning the day are the oral presenters, the few whose work earned them an invitation to present their work orally. This year’s 11 selected students presented their work at the 7th Annual Joseph Krzanowski, PhD, USF Health Invited Oral Presentations Session, They were: Ngozichukwuka Agu; Faris Galambo, BS; Krishna Reddy; Alison E Roth, MPH; Stephanie Ciarlone; Jaymin Kathiriya; Jared Tur; April Lussier; Abby Pribish, BS; Jessica M Gordon; and Rachel G. Sinkey, MD.
The full poster presentation session followed, filling the Ballroom with hustle and bustle as researchers stood next to their posters tacked up onto bulletin boards and judges walked from poster to poster evaluating each presentation and asking lead researchers questions about their work or to further explain their methods, results and conclusions. As always, for those who are new researchers, USF Health Research Day is a key event for acting as a practice run for future national research meetings.
For the last five years, the USF Health Vice President’s Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Oral presentation has gone to three College of Public Health students:
Christopher Campbell, co-winner
“Characterization of a Putative Pseudophosphatase in the Human Malaria Parasite Plasmodium falciparum”
“Development of a Mosquito Trap that Uses Sugar Feeding to Detect Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus”
“Identification and Characterization of Potential Vaccine Candidates Targeting Plasmodium Pre-erythrocytic Stages”
The newest awardee, Alison Roth, is a first year PhD student in the Department of Global Health at COPH.
She presented her work examining transition factors of the Plasmodium parasite that exist between mosquitos and human hosts by identifying and characterizing unique phenotypes of the parasite through the use of novel bioassays and transcriptome analysis. The goal of her work is to reveal potential vaccine targets that aim to stop the parasite during the pivotal transition period from mosquito to human.
The Plasmodium parasite is known to cause malaria and currently no vaccine exists, which is required for worldwide eradication.
She discussed the new techniques she used to examine the transition through the availability of the diverse research resources available at COPH, such as next generation sequencing and bioengineering.
“We have a lot of access to those things within the College of Public Health,” she said. “I’m in the Department of Global Health in the IDRB Building and within there we have a lot of tools, so we take advantage of the different things we’re exposed to and use all these applications to further our research.”
Roth earned her MPH in Global Communicable Diseases from the COPH, so this was not her first time presenting at Research Day.
“There were a lot of very strong presentations, I thought everybody did well. I was pretty shocked when I found out that I won,” she said. “I really felt honored. I’m only a first year student, so it’s fulfilling for me to get acknowledgement to know that I’m heading in the correct direction. It makes my project more meaningful.”
In total, 49 presenters from the COPH were present at Research Day, with 45 students and post-doctoral students, as well as four COPH faculty and staff members.
Additional awards and honors for the COPH include:
Ngozichukwuka Agu, Community & Family Health
“Using Boko Haram as a Case Study for Learning About Terrorism and Its Impact on Health”
Best College of Public Health Poster Presentations
Omonigho Michael Bubu, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
“Sleep Disorders and Alzheimer’s Dementia: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Older Adults Discharged from Tampa General Hospital”
Athena Failla, Global Health
“Identification of Genes Encoding Orthologs of Chemosensory Receptors in Onchocerca Vovulus”
Kate LeGran, Global Health
“Health Worker Perspectives: Tuberculosis and its Covariates in Hillsborough County, Florida”
DeAnne Turner, Community and Family Health
“Lessons Learned in a Pilot Group-Based Ehealth Program for Tobacco Cessation Among People Living with HIV”
Tora Suggs, Community and Family Health
“Assessment of Acrolein-Induced Toxicity Using In-vitro Modeling to Evaluate the Role of PARP”
Christopher Rice, PhD, Global Health
“High Throughput Screens Discover Hits to Fuel Drug Discovery for Pathogenic Free-Living Amoebae”
Dr. Etienne Pracht was one of 11 COPH judges at Research Day. He examined the student’s comfort level with the project as a component of his judging process.
“How well thought out is the presentation, including both what is on the physical poster and how well the presenter presents the materials,” he said. “Most of the posters were ‘works in progress’ so it was easy to find limitations and shortcomings. That was expected and did not work against the students, but, I did use that to see how they react to someone pointing out something they had not yet considered. Do they react like a politician by trying to talk around it or pretending it did not matter, or did they consider it an opportunity to improve their research?”
Dr. Jill Roberts said she was impressed with this year’s research on many levels.
“The quality, quantity, and depth of research performed by COPH students becomes more and more impressive every year,” she said. “I participated in Research Day as a student many years ago and presented one of few posters from COPH. Today, we represent a significant portion of the field and I hope to see that continue in the future.”
Both judges said COPH posters at Research Day were vast and unique.
“Our students present on a wider range of research than many colleges. Our posters included impressive wet lab work toward therapies for underappreciated tropical pathogens to studies to define the role of early reading in later education,” Roberts said. “Our students tackle topics that are controversial and emotional charged including such topics as expanding use of the HPV vaccine, tobacco cessation, and protecting workers involved with fracking. In many poster competitions there are several degrees of separation between research and practice. However, with COPH research, translation to practice is highly evident.”
COPH Research Day Judges
Ellen M. Daley, PhD, Department of Community and Family Health
Yangxin Huang, PhD, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Jill Roberts, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health
Amy Alman, PhD, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Stephanie Marhefka-Day, PhD, Department of Community and Family Health
Marie Bourgeois, PhD, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health
Etienne Pracht, PhD, Department of Health Policy and Management
Rays Jiang, PhD, Department of Global Health
John Petrila, JD, LLM, Department of Health Policy and Management
Judge for the Oral Presentations
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health. Excerpts from USF Health News