The CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment (CAChE) held its third annual “All Hands Meeting” and student research symposium on March 19th. Around 90 people attended the meeting including, the External Advisory Board, faculty, staff, students and visitors from WestEd and Miccosukee Water Resources Team. The meeting aimed to provide a summary of last year’s progress, share recommendations and improvements and plan for the upcoming year.
Since its first year, CREST CAChE has focused on interdisciplinary research and education, bringing students and faculty together from across 10 departments and four colleges. Their work includes innovative research that tackles one of the most complex challenges in our ecosystems, environmental contamination. The Center now has more than 150 undergraduate and graduate students working and collaborating on groundbreaking and innovative research.
The meeting kicked off with welcoming remarks from Dr. Andrés Gil, vice president for research and economic development and dean of the University Graduate School, and Dr. Rita Teutonico, associate director of education and training for CREST CAChE and our associate dean of research.
Dr. Todd Crowl, director of the Institute of Water and Environment and CREST CAChE, shared the Center’s progress and what it had accomplished over the past year. In 2018, CREST CAChE graduated six more students and expanded the Center’s expertise by recruiting fellows in the architecture and engineering departments. The Center launched two of its three state-of-the-art research buoys to monitor water quality near FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus and a Coral Gables canal. Also established was a formal collaboration between the FIU and University of Puerto Rico NSF CREST centers.
The meeting included lightning talks from the three Research Focus Area (RFA) leaders; Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Lima from RFA1- Detection & Identification, Dr. John Kominoski from RFA2- Fate & Transport and Dr. Jose Erin-Lopez from RFA3- Risk Assessment, Modeling & Visualization. Each RFA works with one another to foster collaboration between students, leading to valuable results and real-world solutions. For RFA4- Education & Research, Drs. Sara Eddy and Melissa McCartney, professors for the CREST CAChE discovery courses for undergraduates, explained the objectives and learning outcomes of both courses and shared recommendations for the upcoming semester. In addition, the meeting incorporated a presentation from Joe McCray from WestEd on its evaluation methods and progress on the Center, as well as an overview of the CREST Center at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus by Omar Perez.
CREST CAChE graduate students also had the opportunity to present their research posters and innovative ideas during the research symposium. Their projects varied from measuring contaminants and water quality using sensing technology to developing methods such as virtual reality systems and semantic search engines to assess impacts on South Florida’s ecosystems. Before the meeting, students had the opportunity to present their projects on various occasions at regional meetings and conferences, allowing students to learn how to effectively communicate their research and instigate collaboration between their peers and key partners.
The meeting concluded with a breakout session on strategic planning for year four and the final report and recommendations from the External Advisory Board. As the Center keeps moving forward, it continues to expand and create opportunities for students to foster their development as future professionals in STEM fields.
To learn more about the Center, click here.