Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Presenting the Highlight of my Undergraduate Career

From the left: Dr. Greg McManus, Mikail TaseXhensila Xhani, Reece Johnson, Nicole Giorgi, Megan McCormack, Myself, Ian Baxter, Luke Lamos, Dr. Daniel Paull 
This spring, I had the amazing pleasure of attending an American Chemical Society (ACS) National Conference in Orlando, FL to present my work as an undergraduate researcher. Doing research these past two years has been the highlight of my undergraduate career. I’ve faced challenges, met people, and attended events that have helped to shape me personally and professionally. With this conference one month before my graduation, it feels like an appropriate capstone to what research has been to me; connecting with people who share both a curiosity for the unknown and a drive to better the world. 
March 31st
The first day of the conference my carpool didn’t arrive until the late afternoon when the talks and presentations were over. I did, however, have the pleasure of attending an award ceremony where our Chemistry Club was awarded with ACS Honorable Mentions and Green Chemistry awards! 

Reece Johnson accepting the ACS Honorable Mention and Green Chemistry award on behalf of FGCU. 

After the award ceremony, we met up with Dr. Greg McManus’s research group who finished presenting their research at a poster session for dinner. The conference was just beginning! I couldn’t wait to start the next day early and attend the lectures of leaders in the field of chemistry.
April 1st
The next day we were up bright and early and parted ways once at the convention center. The conference was huge! There was an entire app dedicated just to finding lectures to attend and navigating the center. The only other conference I attended was in a single building with a few hundred attendees. This ACS National Conference was split across several buildings with thousands of attendees and presenters. It was surreal to think that all these people were fellow chemists! The most exciting part of the day was a lecture I attended presented by NASA where they explained the geochemistry of Mercury. Before I knew it, the day was over and I began planning the next day.

April 2nd
On Tuesday I had the amazing opportunity to attend a live Q&A with Nobel Prize Winner Karl Berry Sharpless! He had amazing stories regarding his work, his approach to science, and his views on the future of the scientific field. After the session, I was able to get his signature and a picture with him! 

The next morning, we left to return to Fort Myers, concluding our conference experience. Attending the ACS National Conference was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m immensely grateful for. I was able to explore many facets of the field of chemistry, learning from those on the cutting edge of the research. I also made connections with attendees and businesses that may prove invaluable post-graduation as well as deepening my friendships with my fellow students. I’d recommend to anyone with any interest in research or STEM to perform undergraduate research. It’s been incredibly rewarding work that’s improved my work ethic and critical thinking. Thanks to research my interest in laboratory science has been cemented and I now plan to pursue a doctorate degree in Chemistry! If you have any hesitation, try it out! You’ll learn if it’s right for you or not.

My research group. From the left: Dr. Daniel Paull, Camille Knudstrup, Reece Johnson, Mikail Tase, Myself, Ian Baxter, and Hind Benmerabet 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Inspired at ACS (American Chemical Society)

The word I would use to describe the ACS conference is inspiring. The conference center itself was massive and decorated with signs welcoming everyone to the conference. Inside, hundreds of Ph.Ds. from around the world presented their research findings. As an attendee I was able to go from room to room and listen to the talks I found most interesting. I listened to a series of presentations on the S-adenosyl methionine radical reactions and my whole group went to Dr. Paull’s presentation on increasing student-researcher efficacy.  Everyone attending was very accessible and willing to discuss new ideas or critiques, making the ACS conference a great environment for learning. 

I was honored to present my poster along with over a thousand other students from across the world. Posters were categorized as containing information pertaining to organic, inorganic, biological, technological, computational, and environmental chemistry. The poster presentations were my favorite part of the conference because of the diversity of the projects and the casual nature of the presentations. I was able to ask the students to elaborate on their projects and was exposed to lots of new ideas and information that I otherwise would never have known existed.

I really enjoyed the Expo and Career Fair as well. It was great to see interview rooms set up in the fair, which showed the companies there were serious about recruiting and hiring people at the ACS. I also saw a lot of new technology and spoke to liaisons who explained how their equipment was the newest and best in the field. The Expo even had interactive components where members could take pictures in front of the periodic table or vote on the best element, I chose Silver because it was in the top two.

           I left the conference with a feeling of well-being, knowing that so many intelligent people were putting their knowledge toward good causes, such as curing cancer or solving environmental pollution issues. I think my knowledge base has expanded as a result of the conference, because I am more aware of all the different types of fields a chemist could excel in. I would recommend that any future student try to attend an ACS or similar conference because it is an experience unlike anything else in college and will have rewards far beyond graduation. 

Student: Camille Knudstrup

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Disrupting the Cycle with Soles4Souls


            This report presents information on my recent trip to Nashville, TN where I was invited to participate in the AIB-SE Symposium for 2019. To be invited to this event one had to perform well in the semester-long X-Culture project for the International Business class. Me alongside Tyler Williams were amongst the top students and were invited to participate. The AIB-SE was working alongside Soles4Souls where they presented the six different groups with three challenges. One of which the groups had to choose to try to find a solution for it. I was placed in a group consisting of me and other international students from Mexico, Belgium, Canada, and other students from the US. We presented our solution to one of the issues facing Soles4Souls in front of their CEO, Buddy Teaster. The issue was of the potential lost opportunity of the thousands of discarded shoes during mud runs that they could add to their inventory or let them end up in landfills.

            The symposium also consisted of several workshops where professors from the other participating universities presented on several topics within the International Business sector. But mostly it was an opportunity for everyone to network with people from all over the world. I was able to form connections with not only my groupmates but also others from Italy, China, and Colombia. Also, I was quite fortunate to experience the stadium for the Tennessee Titans, which adds to my many experiences towards my future career in Sports Management.
My team #SoleyMud from left to right: Max from Mexico, myself, Catherine from Canada, Paige from Houston, Arnaud from Belgium, and Jessica from Philadelphia  

Background Information of Project

            We were invited to participate in the X-Culture AIB-SE Soles4Souls Challenge after having performed well in Dr. Rottig’s International Business class where we had to work on an International group project alongside students from all over the world. This project was assigned by AIB-SE, the Academy of International Business U.S. Southeast Chapter. We first had to take a placement test for us to be placed in international teams based on our results of the test. The test mostly covered subjects such as cultural intelligence and other international business topics. My group consisted of myself and members from Thailand, Italy, Ecuador, Colombia, and North Carolina, US. We chose to take on the challenge proposed by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with AIB-SE. Our challenge was to find new markets for the city of Nashville to attract and we made a report on how they should focus on attracting automotive companies towards creating electric and hybrid vehicles within the US. Based on our performance, the top teams of the semester were invited to the X-Culture Symposium in Nashville, TN. My team was invited but only I was able to attend due to travel complications for the rest of my team members. 

The Nashville Symposium

            We arrived in Nashville into a welcome reception held by AIB-SE followed by a comprehensive tour of the Soles4Souls headquarters led by their main staff. We had an interview session with their CEO, CFO, and CMO where they were available to answer questions the groups had come across during their research. We were also able to help them out through the sorting process of donations to get a better understanding of their daily business activities.

Two images of our work can be seen on the back of this report. Afterwards, we were all invited to a welcome session at a recording studio where many Country Music legends once recorded their songs. The following days consisted of opportunities for everyone to attend workshops and other sessions held by the professors from the participating universities and time for the groups to finalize their solutions. 

            During the last day, we presented in from of Soles4Souls’ CEO Buddy Teaster. He congratulated us on the creativity of our solutions and was very impressed with our idea of creating the initial donation idea into the minds of the participants during their registration process. He mentioned that he was also interested in discussing more in depth with his staff on how it would be possible for them to implement the sponsored racer solution we came up with. In the end, there was another group who won the prize for best solution. They came up with the idea of freezing the shoes for shipment which eliminated the risk of decomposition and I was quite impressed with their presentation. 

            I was also lucky to be able to get to know the city of Nashville specifically its most popular areas as well as the stadium for the Tennessee Titans and their professional hockey team. As a student hoping to work in the Professional Sports Management industry, I was quite happy to be able to observe the stadium in person. I thought about how they control entry and exit during games and how they create a sense of pride for the people of Tennessee in their organization. I was able to use the content I have learned throughout the several Sports Management classes I took at FGCU to get a first-hand experience of their facilities. As well as how they did so on their hockey stadium on the other side of the bridge.

The Soles4Souls Challenge

            Once accepted in the Symposium, I was placed once again in an international group. This time consisting of myself, one from Mexico, one from Belgium, one from Canada, and two other US students. This time our challenge was from the company Soles4Souls (S4S). They presented each group with three challenges, one of which we had to try to solve. S4S’s vision is “to disrupt the cycle of poverty by creating sustainable jobs and provide relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world.” They have three main issues that they are currently facing. The first is the challenge of taking advantage of the factory surplus big companies are experiencing. The second is an exploration into European expansion. The third being the finding of a solution of the millions of discarded shoes that occur during mud runs. 

Organizing donated shoes at the Soles4Souls headquarters.

            My team, named #SoleyMud, chose to take on the mud run issue and we came up with a marketing solution that would help them save money on cleaning and shipping the dirty and discarded shoes from the mud runs. Mud runs happen all over the world ranging from Europe to South Africa and from Australia to Brazil. Estimates show that 30-50% of participants discard their shoes after the runs which creates thousands of discarded shoes every year in landfills. S4S decided to collect these shoes and clean them to sell to local entrepreneurs in impoverished areas, such as Haiti, for them to be able to make a living out of the shoes. The issues S4S came across was that the shoes are too dirty to clean, even with industrial washers, by the time they arrive, and the dirt creates a lot of weight which adds to shipping expenses. 

            My team’s solution was to have S4S sponsor a few of the runners participating in the events and have them lead the donors into cleaning their no longer desired shoes mostly to get rid of the heavy mud that will reduce the shipping expenses significantly. The industrial washers and dryers would take care of the rest. These sponsors are a low-cost solution because their compensation would be the entrance fee for the race, which can cost up to $500, and food and beverage during the day. An efficient way for S4S to have manpower at all races. Donors would me incentivized to clean their shoes so that they can show off their collected dirt to their friends. Also, a collaboration with the mud run organizers to place donation information during registration would entice more people to donate their shoes. 

Students: Tyler Williams & Marcelo Taborga
Mentor: Daniel Rottig
Department of Management

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Provoking Bee Extinction Issues Through Art

I want to begin by giving my utmost appreciation and gratitude for the scholarship award for my project titled “God Save the Queen.” The experience was eye opening and demanding at times but well worth it as I was so happy with my finished pieces. The activity of cutting and creating aluminum sculptural suits of armor was difficult since I had never worked with aluminum flashing in any art class before this project. I learned to create in a new medium which is an incredible experience for any artist.

The pinpointing with the nail pin and creating flower like images on top of the armor was extremely tedious; however, it made all the difference in creating a look that was more elaborate and creative. This creative process really helped me put a lot of energy in a creative way that was necessary since I had gone through two huge losses in my family. While I created these pieces, I was able to get very creative and create looks that not only represented a strong warrior bee but also get some inspiration from fashionable female members of my family. I truly will remember this project through all the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, sweat and pain, late nights and stressful deadlines that I went through but the final outcome and the beautiful stunning and time-consuming effort I put into the pieces I will forever cherish and admire that I was able to create. I am very content with the looks I created and believe no matter the criticism that I might have received that they are beautifully crafted and truly stunning pieces.  I genuinely want to thank the Office of Undergraduate Scholarship Student Support Award and especially thank Jaclyn Chastain for all her time and effort in the matters of my project.

Artisst Statement: 

The themes that reoccur in my artwork is a strong feminine aesthetic which embodies the thought provoking environmental climate change issues that humans have on planet Earth. I examine the evolution of human tendencies of curiosity and technological advancement with the way we care for our oceans, plants, and animals. My technique is inspired by sculptural fashion and wearable art work. I have a strong passion for high fashion haute couture garments and I am always inspired by the artistry of Avant Garde fashion designers in my artwork. 

The extravagant and over the top wow” factors of beauty and size of art pieces always compels me to want to create such a reaction as well. The scientific research that the bees are dwindling because of the harmful effects of human development and pollution on nature is an idea I examined in my work. The best way of creating nature in a sculptural fashion was by recreating a Queen Bee as an actual human Queen. The Queen Bee holds the bee colony together so as a warrior Queen with a suit of armor I wanted to imply that the action of some humans are trying to hold together human survival on Earth. 

The alarming threat bees are facing will threaten and impact human survival tremendously, there are 700 North American bee species that are declining because of habitat loss and pesticides.  My artwork is and will always be greatly inspired by my mother and grandmother as I grew up watching their beautiful craftmanship and artistry on the sewing machine for my older siblings and I on Halloween or their reupholster in furniture pieces. I want to convey the strength of females and the feminine aspects of nurturing and caring for the Earth as well as for continued human survival for future generations.    

Student: Sebastian Melendez
Mentor: Prof. Mary Voytek
Department of Bower School of Music and the Arts

Presenting the Highlight of my Undergraduate Career

From the left: Dr. Greg McManus,  Mikail   Tase ,  Xhensila   Xhani , Reece Johnson, Nicole Giorgi, Megan McCormack, Myself, Ian Ba...