Soumyadeep Mukherjee

FIU doctoral graduate Soumyadeep “Deep” Mukherjee is the Written Category winner for the 2018 Flame Challenge. Deep, who received his Ph.D. in Public Health, graduated from FIU in 2016 and is now as Postdoctoral Researcher in the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University (SBU). 

The Flame Challenge, sponsored by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, aims to improve how scientists communicate with the public by challenging them to communicate complex concepts in ways that an 11-year-old would be able to understand. The question for the 2018 competition was “What is Climate?” The contest offered a $1,000 cash prize for winning entries in three categories (Written, Video, and Graphic) and a trip to New York City to meet Alan Alda and be recognized during the World Science Festival.

Deep says it is important for the public to understand scientists and for scientists to understand each other. The need for effective communication in the sciences became clear to him while attending seminars and conferences. There were multiple experiences when he had a difficult time understanding an expert’s research presentation. He also recalls the need to improve his own communication skills. 

“I was often at a loss of words myself when someone would ask me about my research or my own interests,” he said.

Deep credits his experiences at FIU as being contributing factors to his success in the Flame Challenge. Presenting at FIU’s Graduate Student Appreciation Week and at local and national conferences forced him to improve how he communicated his work to others. Also valuable was his involvement in the second cohort of the Academy of Graduates for Integrative Learning Experiences (AGILE) program. 

“Dr. Lakshmi N. Reddi, Dr. Sonja Montas-Hunter, and Dr. Magnolia Hernandez regularly emphasized the necessity to improve our communication and leadership skills,” Deep said. “One workshop in the AGILE program that I can vividly recall focused on giving our talk in 3-5 minutes without using any jargon or power-point slides!”

As an AGILE participant, Deep learned the importance of communicating research in blogs, community meetings, and other outlets that the public are more likely to access. “Most of the scientific research is funded by the public directly or indirectly,” Deep said. “So, they have a stake in knowing what we are doing!”

At SBU, Deep is working on a project that examines the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and changes in mental health among responders to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. His long-term goal is to have a career devoted to teaching, science communication, and research. 

“I hope to be a able to interface with the community, the media, and policy-makers to promote health equity,” he said.

John Gibson

Kendra Adams

Kendra Adams

Kendra Adams is a 5th-year doctoral student in FIU’s Forensic Chemistry program. A native of Burnt Hills, NY, Kendra earned a B.S. in Chemistry with a concentration in Forensic Science from SUNY Albany in 2013. At FIU, Kendra is specializing in Analytical Chemistry.

Kendra, a member of UAlbany’s Division I track and field team during her four years there, became interested in analytical chemistry during her junior year. That year, she took a forensic science class where she had the opportunity to use mass spectrometers to design her own research project.

“After learning about the capabilities of mass spectrometry, I became very interested in pursuing research and joined a research group as an undergraduate,” Kendra said. The work resulting from Kendra’s undergraduate research project was published in a peer-reviewed journal, Drug Testing and Analysis.

Kendra has continued her mass spectrometry work and has published four papers as a graduate student at FIU. Her doctoral work involves using trapped ion mobility spectrometry and mass spectrometry (TIMS-MS) to weigh molecules and experimentally determine their size and shape. This process enables her to measure and identify compounds in complex mixtures.

“Specifically, I have done research looking at various endocrine disruptors, drugs of abuse, and lipids in biological matrices,” Kendra said. TIMS-MS facilitates separating and identifying these types of compounds.

Kendra became interested in FIU because of the forensic track offered in the chemistry doctoral program. “Although I haven’t pursued the traditional forensic route with my research, the analytical work I do can be applied to forensically relevant questions and research,” she said.

After defending her dissertation, Kendra will work as a postdoctoral associate at Duke University, where her research will be focused on Alzheimer’s disease.

graduate student bhusal

Sadhana Bhusal

Sadhana Bhusal, a doctoral student in FIU’s Mechanical and Materials Engineering program, was recently awarded a $2,000 scholarship from The International Thermal Spray Association (ITSA). The scholarship is awarded to students pursuing a postgraduate degree in the field of thermal spray.

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grad student headley

Andrea Marie Headley

Andrea Marie Headley has always wanted to serve the public and make an impact on her community.  Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in South Florida, Andrea earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Miami, where she double-majored in Human and Social Development and Criminology. As an undergraduate at UM, she developed an interest in organizational behavior and community relations after taking classes in community and program development.

“I yearned for a deeper understanding of societal problems and to analyze, if not inspire solutions,” she said.

Andrea wanted to do something that would enable her to serve the public and improve the community, so she decided to pursue a doctoral degree in Public Affairs.

“I knew I wanted to conduct research that had practical implications and solved problems,” Andrea said. “When the current events surrounding Ferguson and police shootings began to shed light on police-community tensions, it served as a motivation for my dissertation research.”

Andrea’s research applies organizational theories to understand the relationship between police departments and the community. As part of her doctoral dissertation, she examined the role of organization characteristics on police-community relations, used nationwide data on police agencies to develop a multi-dimensional index to measure organizational performance, and examined how and why organizational characteristics impact police-community relations. Andrea’s research is already impacting the community: she has conducted a program evaluation of police body-worn cameras for a local police department.

Andrea, a McKnight Doctoral Fellow, chose FIU for her graduate studies because of the interdisciplinary features of the Public Affairs program.

“I felt that this program gave me the best of all worlds by allowing me to have a broader understanding of public service while still allowing for a substantive policy focus in Criminal Justice,” she said.

Andrea is grateful for the many opportunities that have come her way while attending FIU, including attending international workshops and conferences, receiving methodological training at the University of Michigan’s ICPSR Summer Program, and presenting at national conferences across the United States.

“My time at FIU has been very rewarding, and I am very grateful,” Andrea said. “I have been blessed with wonderful support from various people, departments, and the University as a whole. The support, encouragement, and intellectual freedom I have been given at FIU has been instrumental in my development as a scholar.”

After completing her doctoral degree, Andrea will continue to pursue her research interests and plans to use her research to influence policy and practice. She has accepted two positions that will help with those goals. For the upcoming academic year, she will hold a post-doctoral position at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Following her post-doctoral work, she will join the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University as a tenure-track assistant professor.

Juliano Freitas

When Juliano Freitas was in high school, his grandmother passed away due to a metastatic tumor in her lung. It was that loss that ultimately led to his interest in metastasis, the topic he is studying for his doctoral degree here at FIU.

“That was the first time I heard the word ‘metastasis’,” Juliano said. Read more