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MEDIA CONTACT: Christine Dardet

FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science Program Develops Traditionally Underrepresented Scientists

BOCA RATON, FL (November 1, 2011) – Undergraduate students of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University are currently participating in an opportunity to undertake significant scientific research through the Undergraduate Research Mentoring (URM) Program.

The URM Program, funded by the National Science Foundation since 2009, aims to increase the diversity of individuals in biological research in preparation for a graduate and academic career. Throughout the two-year program, students receive financial support and are matched with a mentor from FAU's department of biological sciences.

"The URM program has served to enhance not only the lives of the students but has also established a role model for honors programs at both the department and institutional level," said Rodney Murphey, Ph.D., professor and chair of FAU's department of biological sciences. "In addition to working in FAU's laboratories, several students have already collaborated on their research projects with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and nearby state and federal laboratories.  Students graduate fully prepared to undertake a successful career in science."

The program is modeled on the integrative biology Ph.D. program, and the areas of research range from environmental science to molecular biology. The URM students are involved in all steps of research, including learning how to dissect a scientific paper, presenting their work to their peers, writing manuscripts, producing posters, applying for grants and graduate school, and defending their honors theses.

Student highlights within the program include:

  • Jessene Aquino-Thomas is a senior biology major with an emphasis on marine ecology. Aquino-Thomas works with Edward Proffitt, Ph.D. on the factors affecting red mangrove prop roots as a habitat for oysters. She plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in ecological conservation.
  • Houda Boucekkine, 18, is a senior who is pursuing an undergraduate degree in biochemistry with a minor in anthropology. Boucekkine works in the lab of John Nambu, Ph.D., where they employ a multidisciplinary approach using cell biology, genetics and molecular biology to study a variety of biological processes such as aging and neuro-development and neurological diseases. She plans to attend medical school in the fall.
  • Adam Chen, 22, is a senior chemistry major on the biochemistry track. He has worked in the biology lab of Ken Dawson-Scully, Ph.D. studying the neurobiology of cellular stress and neuroprotection and the lab of Erik Noonburg, Ph.D. using a statistical programming language for ecological modeling. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in ecological modeling.
  • Timothy Foo, 25, earned a bachelor's degree from FAU in chemistry, magna cum laude, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from FAU. Foo works in the chemistry lab of Andrew Terentis, Ph.D., on a research project involving enzyme kinetics, its interactions with various inhibitors, and its link in cancer and other diseases.
  • Brandon Lloyd, 26, received a bachelor's degree from FAU in biology and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. degree in integrative biology with an emphasis on neuroscience from FAU.  For his undergraduate research, Lloyd studied immunology related to lupus, asthma and antibodies with Joseph Caruso, Ph.D. and James Harmann, Ph.D.
  • Alena Rodriguez, 21 is a senior biology major with an emphasis on biochemistry.  Rodriguez's research involves the screening of peptides from the venom of cone snail and its effect on neurons in the lab of Frank Marí, Ph.D. She plans to pursue a master's degree in biology from FAU.
  • Pedro Sanchez, 22, is a senior biology major who has studied molecular genetics in the integrated biology laboratory of John Nambu, Ph.D. Sanchez plans to attend medical school in the fall.
  • Joshua Scholl, 23, is a senior biology major. Scholl has studied the preservation of gopher tortoises with Evelyn Frazier, Ph.D. He plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in ecological conservation.

For information on the URM program, contact Evelyn Frazier, Ph.D., at 561-297-4472 or


Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. In commemoration of its origin, FAU is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2011. Today, the University serves more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit

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