FAU Broward Student Research Symposium

11th Annual Broward Student Research Symposium

The 2021 Broward Student Research Symposium again highlighted the outstanding work our FAU students are doing under the mentorship of the exceptional FAU faculty. The diversity of projects presented reflects some of the cutting-edge work being done at FAU. Below are the People’s Choice Winners for the Doctoral, Masters, and Undergraduate categories.

Doctoral Category

First description of multiple Northern Cardinal microbiomes and preliminary relationships with stress, sexual signaling, and body condition

Morgan Slevin, doctoral student
IBNS - Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Mentor: Dr. Rindy Anderson

All animals host multiple microbiomes, which are the natural bacterial communities living in and on various body surfaces and organ systems. Emerging mammalian research shows that microbiomes can relate to important facets of host health including cognitive function, behavior, and the stress response. However, relatively very little is known about these relationships in birds and other taxa. I sampled the cloacal, oral, and fecal microbiomes of wild Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) in Davie, FL and assessed sexual signaling, stress, and body condition of each.

This is the first description of the microbiota of a common backyard bird species and how they relate to its health. Better understanding wild animals’ microbiomes, and how they relate to stress, health, and behavior, is a critical first step to using microbiomes to index wild animal population health, and to ameliorate stress and improve the health of animals in captive breeding and rehabilitation programs.

Masters Category

Approach for the detection of preexisting immunity to childhood immunizations within peripheral blood

Czdari Lee, masters student
Biological Sciences - Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Integrated Medical Science
Mentors: Dr. Mahyar Nouri-Shirazi

Effective vaccination of eligible populations is a successful means of preventing communicable disease spread to humans by directly protecting vaccinated individuals and indirectly preventing the circulation of infectious agents to immunocompromised individuals who are not eligible for vaccines. Studies suggest that smokers have less than optimal immune responses to natural infections and booster vaccines, which may adversely influence the herd immunity effects of vaccines. We hypothesize that smoking attenuates preexisting memory cells and antibodies specific to childhood immunizations.

As a first step to test this hypothesis, we evaluated various culture conditions for the detection of preexisting memory T and B cells specific to measles vaccine antigen in peripheral blood samples of nonsmokers. We found that condition 2 most effectively supported the differentiation of antigen-specific memory T cells into IFN-g-producing effector cells. Additionally, condition 6 optimally supported the differentiation of existing memory B cells into plasma cells secreting immunoglobulin IgG. Our data introduces, for the first time, two optimized culture conditions that can be utilized to compare changes in the frequency and function of preexisting memory cells specific to childhood vaccine antigens and booster vaccines between nonsmokers and smokers.

Undergraduate Category

Students spend time and money commuting to campus, and finding other options may improve academic outcomes. This research study will investigate whether a Mobiity-as-a-Service mobile (MaaS) app can support students choosing among transportation alternatives.

Paula Lopez, Alexandru Pasarariu, Taje Butler, Marquis Grant, Trystine Fellmann, Meenal Rathod, Stephania Vargas, and Chase Lewis, undergraduate students
Urban and Environmental Solutions - Charles E. Schmidt College of Science<
Mentors: Dr. Dr. John Renne, Serena Hoermann

The research aim is to optimize urban and environmental commute options to achieve the ultimate goal of improving students’ academic success. The focus for the ambassador team will be to generate research interest and participation in the Improve Your Commute research study employing new techniques, as opposed to conventional methods of gathering research participants.

For the methods, ambassadors will be using social media, flyers, events, games, and merchandise to generate interest and participation from local college students. Additionally, ambassadors will participate in live events on the different college campuses to continue the outreach process. When the ambassador activities are complete, a focus group will generate data about their experience. The project will focus on the process of using ambassadors to raise awareness, interest, and participation for the research. The project will also investigate how the efforts of the ambassadors contribute toward the success of the overall study.