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During the summer, CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment welcomed their 2018 summer fellows student cohort. At their orientation session, the students had the opportunity to meet their peers, mentors, faculty, staff, and graduate students, as well as take a tour around their labs and CREST facilities.

The mission of this research experience was to bring a diverse group of undergraduate students together to walk the path of professional scientists and graduate students, so they can become more confident about doing research and communicating their findings to the public.

For ten weeks, the fellows worked with faculty and students mentors, learned about CREST CAChE research and projects by going out into the field and participated in professional workshops. We would like to introduce the cohort and their projects:

Connor Born grew up in Kansas where he discovered a profound passion for science while camping in Colorado and finding insects in his backyard. His interest in the human relationship with nature led him to study biology at Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas. For his research project, he worked with Dr. Rene Price, RFA Fate & Transport co-lead, and with Shimelis Dessu, looking at ground and surface water interaction with mangroves by using YSI probes to monitor the quality and behavior of the water and understand the water flow system.  After getting his Bachelors, Connor wants to extend his field and hands-on research experience, as well as do some volunteer work.

Sahana Chandra was the youngest fellow and a recent graduate from American Heritage School. She grew up in Miami Florida and at the age of 14, she developed an interest in computer coding. This summer she worked with Dr. Mark Finlayson, Deya Banisakher, and Maria E. Presa Reyes on semantic search engines and making a user interface for environmental data with CREST CAChE. Sahana is full of energy and ambition, and her goal is to one day start her own company with artificial intelligence.

Anthony Duruewuru was born in Washington, D.C and lived in Nigeria for 7 years, where he developed a strong passion for medicine while attending school. He is now studying Human Biology at Cornell University. During this summer, he worked side by side with Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Lima, RFA Detection & Identification lead, Anthony Castellanos,  and Dr. Kiera Lucas on applying analytical chemistry to observe the lipid profiles of mosquitoes after exposure to pesticides. With this research, he wanted to learn how the A. Aegypti “yellow fever mosquitoes” are developing resistances to pesticides and passing on the traits to their offspring. Anthony’s future goal is to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Mia Lamirand grew up in Colorado and moved to Hawaii to pursue her passion for the ocean as her career. She’s studying Marine Science at the  University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and for her research project, she worked closely with Dr. Jim Fourquerean, Director of the Center for Coastal Oceans Research (CCOR) at the FIU Seagrass Ecosystems Research Lab. She took part in the seagrass monitoring program, including conducting fish and benthic animal surveys along a number of transects and expanding the heterotroph and organisms survey of the seagrass beds. She also measured spatial and temporal trends of heterotrophs in relation to seagrass using GIS technology.

Juan Sanchez was born and raised in Puerto Rico, surrounded by the ocean, discovering marine life and exploring nature. He’s studying Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and due to his passion for the ocean, he started working a few years ago with his two CREST CAChE mentors, Javier Antonio Rodríguez Casariego and Dr. Alex Mercado on the epigenetics of coral reefs. This summer he worked at the Dr. Jose Eirin-Lopez’s Environmental Epigenetics Lab at FIU, where he developed molecular analyses of coral samples collected monthly from areas impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico, characterizing epigenetic modifications at different locations and under different environmental conditions. His goal was to analyze the effects of environmental factors on coral genes and the role of epigenetics during coral recovery.

Rose Santana was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in Germany, where she developed a love for the ocean after going fishing every Sunday with her grandfather. Two years ago she moved to Florida to study Biology at Florida International University. Since then, she’s been working with her mentors Dr. Todd Crowl, Director of Institute of Water and Environment, Dr. Jone Corrales, and Tiffany Yanez on her research project, which focuses on the effects of metal waterborne contamination on fish swim performance. She also conducted experiments on prey-predator interactions when they’re exposed to copper. Rose wants to become a marine biologist and focus on marine mammal behavior. 

Andrea Santiago was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but when Hurricane Maria struck the island, FIU stepped up and offered support for her to move to South Florida to continue her Biology degree. Since then, she has joined CREST CAChE and for her research project she worked side by side with Dr. Piero Gardinali Director of the Southeast Environmental Research Center, Dr. Natalia Soares Quinete, and  Dr. Alex Mercado on her project that will focus on determining the physiological responses of eastern mosquito fish when exposed to different levels of Methylmercury. She also took part in developing and validating a methodology to extract and analyze the levels of cortisol in mosquito fish. Andrea wants to become a doctor or join the Air Force to pursue her passion for helping people.

Yanelle Silva-Luna is a Biology and Environmental Sciences undergrad at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. After growing up in El Yunque National Forest at Puerto Rico, her curiosity about nature drew her into the science and ecology field.  She worked closely with her CREST CAChE mentors, Dr. Jose Erin-Lopez, Dr. Alex Mercado, and Javier Rodriguez during her research on the impacts that Hurricane Irma and Maria had on the coral reef ecosystem. With the results of this research, her goal was to help improve restoration and recovery projects on coral reefs.

Clara Smith was born and raised in Colorado, but her passion for the outdoors and the ocean led her to move to the island of Hawaii to become a marine scientist at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.  Under the mentorship of  Dr. Mike Ross and Dr. Danielle Ogurcak, Clara looked at the role of mangroves as environmental filters, by analyzing mangrove leaves for metals to see if they were absorbing contaminants before they make it to the ocean and comparing sediment carbon accumulation rates to those of mangrove forests in South Florida.

At the end of the program, students presented their research and findings in a poster session during the annual CREST CAChE Symposium.  This marked the end and completion of the program, propelling them one step closer to their future career path.

Learn more about the Undergraduate Research Experience and other opportunities CREST CAChE offers.