Can you meet your future partner in five minutes of speed dating? Maybe.
But can you meet a faculty research mentor in five minutes of speed matching? Definitely.
Twenty-seven sophomore and junior pre-medical and pre-health students had the opportunity to connect with eight faculty members who are conducting a range of clinical and basic science research during the first-ever Undergraduate Research Speed Pitch hosted by our department in partnership with the Center for Undergraduate Research and the College of Public Health and Health Professions on Wednesday, Feb. 5, in the Harrell Medical Building.
The faculty members, who came from the departments of Anesthesiology, Medicine, Neurosurgery, and Occupational Therapy, rotated through tables of students in 5-minute intervals, explaining their research and offering students the chance to ask questions and give their resumes.
The speed-dating format was chosen as a way to maximize interactions between students and faculty in a short time, said Sylvain Doré, PhD, Professor of Anesthesiology, Neurology, Psychiatry, Pharmaceutics, and Neuroscience, who had the idea for the event. It can be challenging for students to connect one-on-one with faculty; sometimes, their only option is knocking on a faculty member’s door.
“We want to increase the student experience,” Dr. Doré said. “A lot of studies show that when students have a chance to work on a research project, they increase their likelihood of completing their degree in a 4-year period.”
Faculty mentors teach students not only how to conduct research, but also how to interpret and be critical of it, Dr. Doré said. Research mentors also provide students with opportunities to create abstracts and present posters or even get co-authorship on a manuscript.
Relationships with faculty members are also important for letters of recommendation, and research gives students an experience to discuss in interviews, which can distinguish them in competitive fields.
The event was a window into the wide array of research being conducted at UF, said Tanya Jain, a sophomore studying political science and psychology. The research presented ranged from basic science laboratory work, such as brain sectioning and staining, to conducting literature searches.
“Research is diverse,” she said. “I thought this was a really good event because there were so many people in one place that I could talk to.”
For other students, the event was a way to find a topic that sparked their interest. Reyna Cuales, a sophomore who hopes to pursue an advanced degree as a nurse anesthetist, said she was intrigued by the Alzheimer’s disease research that Dr. Doré and Abdullah S. Ahmad, PhD, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, described. She also expressed interest in work on the role of the kidney in regulating blood pressure and cardiovascular function that Michelle Gumz, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, is conducting.
Cuales, who plans to enter a nurse practitioner program and obtain a dual PhD in research, hopes to pursue research before beginning her career.
“That’s why I’m trying to get a handle and experience in research in my undergrad,” she said, adding that she was intrigued by the multidisciplinary research showcased at the event.
One example of those connections among departments is the role of engineering in the medical simulation work that Samsun Lampotang, PhD, the Joachim S. Gravenstein Professor of Anesthesiology, does in the Center for Safety, Simulation & Advanced Learning Technologies (CSSALT).
Dr. Lampotang, who directs CSSALT, and Travis Johnson, a Simulation Engineer in the lab, told students at the event that because CSSALT is involved in such a broad range of goal-oriented research, the lab can usually find a topic that fits students’ interests and skill sets. Most importantly, they told students, is having self-motivation; technical skills can be taught.
Jennifer Moses, Assistant Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research, said the event was an exciting way to connect with students. She hopes it can be held in the future, potentially in the fall.
“I think a lot of the undergrads are intimidated by trying to approach faculty on their own,” she said. “Having an event designed by faculty for that interaction alleviates some of that stress.”
Click on the links bellow to learn more about the research of each of the faculty members who attended:
- Abdullah Ahmad, PhD: Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology
- Sylvain Doré, PhD: Professor, Department of Anesthesiology
- Michelle Gumz, PhD: Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
- John Kramer, PhD: Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy
- Samsun Lampotang, PhD: Joachim S. Gravenstein Professor of Anesthesiology, Director, Center for Safety, Simulation & Advanced Learning Technologies, Department of Anesthesiology
- Justin Mason, PhD: Post-Doctoral Associate, Department of Occupational Therapy
- Tezcan Ozrazgat Baslanti, PhD: Research Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine
- Brent Reynolds, PhD: Professor, Department of Neurosurgery