Better Together

Better Together

Students and their professors team up to tackle undergraduate research.

When associate professor of physics Costas Efthimiou proposed a research project involving string theory to student Christopher Frye, ’13, an ideal collaboration was conceived. Under Dr. Efthimiou’s mentorship, Frye became a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, one of only four in UCF’s history.

Student

Christopher Frye

On Research

This particular project investigated how string theory modifies Einstein’s theory of general relativity and, in particular, the effects on phenomena in our own solar system. String theory is an attempt to explain all phenomena that occurs in our universe; thus it must include a theory of gravity. In my research, I calculate the effects these “stringy” equations would have on what we should observe in the classical tests of general relativity.

On Collaboration

I am most interested in the theoretical areas of physics, and I was thrilled when my adviser suggested a research topic that would allow me to learn string theory.

On Challenges

Calculations in general relativity are almost always computationally demanding, and I did this work by hand. There were a lot of chances for careless errors that could become dangerous if not caught.

On the Importance of Student Research

Research experience allows students to determine whether they might prefer a career in academics or in industry, and it also helps a great deal when applying for graduate school and jobs.

On Working With Dr. Efthimiou

Dr. Efthimiou believes that learning a subject deeply requires a large amount of pain and suffering, even if one is very interested in what he studies, but the reward is great.

Bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics, The Burnett Honors College • 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar • Awarded $10,000 by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation • Participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research

Mentor

Dr. Costas Efthimiou

On Your Decision to Become a Scientist

My academic strengths have always been mathematics and physics, so it was natural to pick an area of concentration that allows me to practice both.

On Your Role at UCF

Supervising undergraduate students has always been one of my strengths, especially helping them to study advanced material in my area of concentration — theoretical high energy physics. I have learned to be very effective, and my students have won many competitive awards.

On The Importance of This Research

This work is just one piece in a grand theory known as string theory, which has been proposed as the Theory of Everything (TOE). The TOE is a dream of physicists; a unique theory that can explain any phenomenon taking place in our universe — past, present or future. Through research such as ours, we can propose many tests that can (in principle) verify the theory. Eventually, some of these tests will be feasible, and we’ll know if string theory is the TOE.

On Working With Chris

This project would stress the abilities of most graduate students. Chris’ intellectual abilities, great mathematical skills and conscientiousness allowed him to become an independent researcher quickly.

Associate professor, Department of Physics, College of Sciences • 2013 Founders’ Day honoree • Authored textbook Introduction to Functional Equations: Theory and Problem-solving Strategies for Mathematical Competitions and Beyond • Recent publications: Nuclear Physics B; Physical Review A; Praxis der Naturwissenschaften Physik

“Mentoring student researchers is my favorite part of my job.”

Dr. Steven Berman

When associate professor of psychology Steven Berman introduced Kaylin Ratner, ’13, to the field of identity research, it not only sparked her interest but reignited his own. Under Dr. Berman’s mentorship, Ratner has received much recognition, including winning first place in the Social Sciences III category of the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence.

Mentor

Dr. Steven Berman

On Your Role at UCF

When I came to UCF, Dr. Alvin Wang invited me to serve as the Daytona Beach campus coordinator for our Honors in the Major students. Mentoring student researchers is my favorite part of my job.

On Your Decision to Become a Researcher

As a psychotherapist, I helped one person at a time. As a researcher, I am able to develop intervention programs that serve many people.

On Advising Aspiring Student Researchers

Choose a mentor that is successful in publishing their research and is willing to spend time nurturing their mentees.

On the Importance of This Research

This project examines the role of parenting in helping teenagers form their sense of identity. A better understanding of these relationships will help us in developing intervention and prevention programs aimed at fostering positive youth development.

On Working With Kaylin

Kaylin is one of the most diligent, driven and hardworking students I have ever met. In our project together, Kaylin and I found that one of the widely used measures in our field has some conceptual problems, which was an important discovery. She has taught me to have more trust in my undergraduates.

Associate professor, Department of Psychology, College of Sciences • Teaching Incentive Program Award recipient • Guest editor, special issue of Child & Youth Care Forum: International Perspective on Identity • Recent publications: Journal of Adolescence; Encyclopedia of Adolescence, Parts 5 and 9; Child & Youth Care Forum; Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología

Student

Kaylin Ratner

On Research

Identity style is how adolescents process incoming identity-relevant information and use it to form their personal code (the roles, goals and values that will give their life direction and purpose). This study set out to determine if an adolescent’s identity style could be predicted by the parenting style by which they were raised, and by the degree of attachment to which they felt toward their parents.

On Applying Research to the Real World

This research is applicable outside of the lab by way of family therapy, which can emphasize the importance of supportive behavior in the parent-child relationship, leading to psychological well-being.

On Challenges

I had two major learning curves: First, I had to learn how to write in a professional genre. Second, I had to learn graduate-level statistics in a matter of two or three months.

On the Importance of Student Research

Participating in research has better prepared me for graduate school. It has also given me the opportunity to network with faculty members and other professionals within my area of research.

On Working With Dr. Berman

Ironically enough, I think working with Dr. Berman helped me solidify my identity. I always knew that I loved the study of psychology, but I feel as if I have found my niche since beginning this research project.

Bachelor’s degree in psychology, The Burnett Honors College • Honors in the Major program participant • President of Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology, UCF Daytona Beach Chapter • Presenter at the 2013 Southeastern Psychological Association convention

“There is no better experience than coming up with a crazy idea for an experiment, discussing it with my mentor, and then planning and carrying it out.”

Moses Murdock

Associate professor William Self and Moses Murdock, ’13, share a common topic: silver. Their research on the therapeutic uses of silver ions is garnering attention, including Murdock’s induction into the 2013 Order of Pegasus, UCF’s most prestigious student award.

Student

Moses Murdock

On Research

Every day, humans encounter silver in its many forms, and while silver is a known antimicrobial, how it interacts with human cells is not fully understood. Metals similar to silver (e.g., gold and platinum) are known to inhibit human enzymes, and have been exploited for therapeutic use against diseases as diverse as rheumatoid arthritis to cancer. My research with Dr. Self focused on understanding the details of silver’s ability to inhibit two human enzymes.

On Challenges

At the outset of any research project, there can be a rather intimidating learning curve. Mastering new techniques and grappling with complex terminology was the most difficult obstacle for this project.

On Collaboration

There is no better experience than coming up with a crazy idea for an experiment, discussing it with my mentor, and then planning and carrying it out.

On the Importance of Student Research

Research brings the concepts learned in the classroom to life. It changes the way you think: Facts are no longer considered absolute and rigid; they are subject to critical analysis. Most importantly, research provides the opportunity for students to interact with and learn from professors who are experts in their field.

On Working With Dr. Self

Dr. Self is very open to consultation. His strong work ethic inspires and motivates me because he has invested so much in me as a person and in my projects.

Bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and microbiology, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, College of Medicine • 2013 Order of Pegasus • Newman Civic Fellow • 2013 Founders’ Day honoree

Mentor

Dr. William Self

On Your Decision to Become a Scientist

The biggest push for me to become a scientist was my undergraduate research experience at the University of Florida. I also credit a ninth-grade chemistry teacher with giving me an interest in science that paved the way for my career.

On Your Role at UCF

In addition to teaching Microbial Metabolism to undergrads, I lead an active research laboratory where I mentor undergraduate and graduate students, and a postdoctoral fellow. My laboratory studies the trafficking and metabolism of a variety of metals and metalloids.

On Advising Aspiring Student Researchers

No matter how difficult the problem, stick with the fundamentals. Hard work, thoughtful use of the scientific method and a careful experimental design with lots of controls can usually overcome any obstacle.

On Working With Moses

Moses’ accomplishments are on par with the top students at the best universities in the U.S. This gives me confidence that our biomedical sciences program is strong.

Associate professor, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, College of Medicine • 2010 Research Incentive Award recipient • Recent publications: Biomaterials; Nanoscale; Environmental Health Perspectives; Encyclopedia of Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry