Fall 2015 BRS Grant Recipients

Kyle Beggs

Major:  Mechanical Engineering

Project title:  In-vitro Pulsatile Model of a Patient-Specific Ventricular Assist Device Implant Strategy to Reduce Cerebral Vessel Emobilization

Project summary:

My project involves the physical modeling of cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure and patients that need a Left Ventricular Assistive Device (LVAD) implanted to survive. Due to blood vessel’s inherent deformability, simple rigid tubing is not sufficient for use in cardiovascular engineering experiments where the local hemodynamics are being studied. My project seeks to provide a more accurate model.

What is your area of research interest?

My research interests are in applied and computational modeling of the human cardiovascular system.

How did you get started in undergraduate research?

I read an article in a magazine from a software company that talked about the modeling of congenital heart disease done by a group here at UCF headed by Dr. Kassab. I was enrolled in a course he was teaching at the time and approached him about getting involved.

How will the Burnett Research Scholars grant help you to achieve the goals of your research project?

The materials and measurement devices  needed for the project are very expensive and the experiment cannot be performed without them. If it were not for the Burnett Research Scholars Grant, this experiment would not be possible.

What are your future academic and professional goals?

I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on computational modeling of cardiovascular diseases. I hope to become either a research professor and/or an entrepreneur.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being an undergraduate researcher?

The nirvana moments when I learn something for the first time in class and am able to relate it to my project. In graduate school you have already been introduced to all of the concepts and are just going more in depth.




Marvi Qureshi

Major:  Biomedical Sciences

Project title:  Analysis of the Pathomechanism of Migraines With a Focus on Current Treatment Plans and the Role of the Neuropeptide LGRP

Project summary: 

My research project aims to analyze the pathomechanism of the three phases of migraines. Our lab specifically focuses on the role of the neuropeptide CGRP and it's role in migraine onset. We are using specific CGRP receptor antagonists with mice dura mater to analyze whether CGRP release could be inhibited in such an anti-CGRP treatment of migraines.  We are focusing on the effects of a specific CGRP polyclonal antibody and CGRP receptor antagonist when it is with capsaicin, which stimulates sensory nerves. Such receptor antagonists have the potential to serve as new drugs in clinical trials against CGRP release from sensory neurons of antagonizing its receptors in the brainstem and vessels.

What is your area of research interest?

My primary research interests include the pathomechanisms of the brain, specifically focusing on migraines. I am also have a separate interest in the research I am conducting at Florida Hospital in the Gynecology department, focusing on laparoscopic versus abdominal hysterectomy for patients with advanced endometriosis.

How did you get started in undergraduate research?

I started off in the field of research by attending a Getting Started in Undergraduate Research Workshop, through which I learned about the Summer Research Academy. After participating in this Academy. I began working with Dr. Samsam studying migraine onset, eventually starting and finishing my Honors in the Major thesis. I presented this thesis in the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence. I also applied to the Clinical Research Internship Program at Florida Hospital, through which I was accepted and began conducting research at the hospital as an undergraduate. I am now serving as a Student Undergraduate Research Council (SURC) member.

How will the Burnett Research Scholars grant help you to achieve the goals of your research?

The cost for obtaining the supplies for our experiments is expensive. We need to acquire: mice to remove their dura mater, neuropeptide CGRP, various CGRP receptor antagonists, CGRP polyclonal antibodies, capsaicin, as well as equipment for microscopy to visualize our results. The cost for any of these items is easily in the hundreds range, and with this grant we will have the ability to obtain our materials and proceed with our experiments.

What are your future academic and professional goals?

For the future prior to graduation, I intend to continue to work with Dr. Samsam and investigate pathomechanisms of the brain, as well as continue my research at Florida Hospital. After graduation, I intend to matriculate to medical school to pursue my passion to help the community and increase the health of my patients. For now, my focus is on becoming and eventually working as a primary care physician in both a clinic and a hospital, as well as continuing research on pathomechanisms of the brain. My goal, and simultaneously biggest challenge, would be making a positive impact on the community while also aiming to increase awareness of such illnesses and improve treatment plans.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being an undergraduate researcher?

The opportunity to be a part of the ongoing conversation that is research. This gives me the ability to make a contribution to the world of research, which can lead to the betterment of society. This provides the knowledge and excitement that I am making a difference in a field that I feel passionate about, and hopefully through my research, I am able to convey this passion. By participating in research, I have the opportunity to make a contribution in a chosen field myself, rather than read about ideas and topics that have already been written about. I now have the opportunity to publish something valuable and useful to a specific field that could possibly aid in the treatment of future patients, which is what I’ve most valued in my undergraduate research experience. There’s a plethora of information out there just waiting to be discovered and written about, and I can be a part of the important process of, for example, discovering the effective treatment of migraines.



Michael Scimeca

Majors:  Spanish and Biomedical Sciences

Project title:  Second Language Production and Comprehension of Bilingual Heritage Speakers

Project summary:

This funded project will look for possible differences in cognitive processing between Spanish heritage speakers and those whose first language is not Spanish (but are learning Spanish). My research team is investigating predictive processing specifically to determine if either of the groups approach syntactical decision-making differently from the other.

What is your research area of interest?

My research interests revolve around the fields of neurolinguistics and Spanish literature. I am interested in mechanisms of second language acquisition with a concentration in romance languages and the role literature plays in the language learning process.

How did you get started in undergraduate research?

I started my research career with the Honors in the Major (HIM) program. I selected a project analyzing the connection between medicine and Don Quixote, and from there, my interests expanded. In tandem with HIM, I am a student researcher in the Research and Mentoring Program (RAMP) where I work with my amazing faculty mentor, Dr. Martha García in both endeavors.

How will the Burnett Research Scholars grant help you achieve the goals of your research project?

This generous grant will allow us to pay our research participants for their time and travel and will eventually fund conference travel and/or date collection abroad. Possible expansion of the project includes data collection from native Spanish speakers, and this can only be accomplished by traveling abroad.

What are your future academic and professional goals?

I am currently applying for a Fulbright grant to teach English abroad in Spain in the upcoming year. Following this endeavor, I plan to enroll in an M.D./Ph.D. or sole Ph.D. program in neurolinguistics. With this eventual background, I will travel in order to study as many languages as I can so that I can perform field work combining medicine and healthcare.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being an undergraduate researcher?

Research has enhanced my undergraduate experience and has altered my career plans. I owe everything to my projects and the mentors who guide them. With this in mind, the 'best thing' about research has been learning to synthesize information from multiple sources into one coherent body of findings. Interdisciplinary research is both challenging and exciting and when the sciences are mixed with humanities, valuable research takes root with applications across a variety of fields.