As Student Research Week wrapped up, students and faculty gathered together to honor student excellence and high achievement in research.
The Student Scholar Symposium Award Ceremony on March 31 recognized distinguished top student researchers who presented their projects throughout the week.
The symposium consisted of five sessions spread throughout two days in the middle of 2022 Student Research Week. This was the first year the event was held in person.
Theodorea Berry, dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies, said $ 13,200 in scholarship funds were divided amongst the winners.
Isabella Castellano, 22-year-old senior biomedical sciences major, said she was worried she would not even be able to make it to the award ceremony.
“I was nervous and excited,” Castellano said. “I actually wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it because I had a class that technically runs until 5:20 pm”
Luckily, Castellano’s class ended early, allowing her to be present as her name was called and applause rang out through the Cape Florida Ballroom.
Castellano received one of 68 judge’s awards at the Student Scholar Symposium Award Ceremony.
Berry and Elizabeth Klonoff, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, presented the awards during the ceremony. Their clever back-and-forth banter eased a lot of the nervous energy in the room as students waited to hear if their names would be announced.
“The air, you can feel the energy in the air,” Klonoff said.
Castellano said her project focused on finding new antibiotic targets for diseases caused by mycobacterial species.
“I’ve never won a research award before, so this is super exciting,” Castellano said.
Castellano said that she was glad that the symposium was held in person because she only previously presented her work virtually. This was her first time creating a poster presentation for her research.
“I really liked interacting with everybody face-to-face, being able for them to make eye contact with me, to look at the poster, and then just have a really great synergy through all of it,” Castellano said.
Beverly Seay, a UCF Board of Trustees member who served as the introductory speaker at the ceremony, said that she liked seeing students celebrate in person much better than behind a screen.
“It’s a wonderful experience, especially if you’ve had a long career because you can see these students are doing is going to benefit them for the rest of their lives,” Seay said.
Seay said that all of the students who participated in the Student Scholar Symposium have acquired skills from their time researching that will serve them well as professionals.
“You are all in a great position right now,” Seay said. “Everything you’ve learned about research, whether you become a researcher or not, will be of value to you for your entire life.”
Seay also said she specifically acknowledged the accomplishments of women in STEM and other underrepresented groups pursuing careers science, technology engineering and math.
“Times have really changed,” Seay said. “I graduated in engineering in the ’70s. I think there were two of us women. ”
These sentiments were met with great applause. Over half of the 106 students recognized for their projects were women.
The award ceremony came to a close as Berry said to the students that she was hopeful many of them would return to participate in the 2023 Student Research Week with all the knowledge they gained from this year’s event.
“This was kind of unusual for me because I’ve only ever been at the institution through the pandemic,” Berry said. “It’s exceptionally rewarding.”
Castellano said that she was grateful for her experience at Student Research Week and cherished the opportunity.
“I was really happy to attend, and now I’m just so grateful I was genuinely able to be here because it was a really great experience,” Castellano said.
Castellano said that she plans to further her research pursuits as she continues her studies at UCF’s medical school in July. She said that another poster project is required for this program, and she now feels more prepared having participated in Student Research Week.
“I love doing research, currently,” Castellano said. “So, in conjunction with that, I know that there’s going to be a lot of research in my future.”
The recipients of the Student Scholar Symposium judge’s awards are listed on the Student Research Week website.