Research in Action

GPSA 2017 Winners

The Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA) and the Graduate College hosted the 8th annual Graduate & Professional Research Day on March 24, 2017. Graduate and Professional Research Day is a University-wide event showcasing research of FAU graduate students to faculty and peers. This year, 75 graduate s tudents presented their research with poster presentations followed by an awards ceremony.

This year the Integrative Biology program was well-represented at the GPSA Research Day. In the Biology category, Hersh Chaitin and David Bradshaw won 1st place and 2nd place was awarded to David Essian and Michael Teti. In the Marine Sciences category, Jake Lasala won 1st place and Boris Tezak won 2nd place. 

Hersh Chaitin GPSA Research Day 2017Hersh Chaitin presented a poster entitled "Decellularization of a Porcine Esophagus While Maintaining the Extracellular Matrix." Hersh began the program in 2015 after completing FAU's PSM Business in Biotechnology Master's degree. He is a member of Dr. Kevin Kang's Biomaterials group, which is currently researching biomaterial applications in cancer treatment. Hersh's thesis research involves creating a 3D esophagus tumor model in order to better understand and treat small cell esophageal cancer. 

bradshawDavid Bradshaw began working in the laboratory of Dr. Peter McCarthy in the fall of 2015 and he presented a poster entitled "Baseline microbial communities in the Indian River Lagoon and Eau Gallie River, FL before dredging." The main objective of his dissertation research is to determine the largely unexplored diversity of bacterial and archaeal communities in the Indian River Lagoon, FL, an economically and biologically important estuary. He will be determining how prokaryotic populations change in response to natural and human impacts. The ultimate goal of this research is to determine whether groups of specific community members can act as indicators of evironmental health. 

David Essian is currently a phD student in the Gawlik Avian Ecology Lab and studies  the influence of hydrological variation on wading bird breeding biology, diet, and foraging behavior. He presented a poster entitled "A model of wading bird nest numbers on Lake Okeechobee." He obtained an undergraduate and Master's degree in Biological Sciences from Northern Michigan University before enrolling in the Integrative Biology Environmental Science (IBES) PhD program. His research interests include using experiments that use the foraging behaviors of wading birds as indicators of the birds’ perception of prey availability and habitat quality within their foraging range. 

LasalaIn the marine sciences category, Jake Lasala presented his poster entitled "Promiscuity in marine turtles nesting in southern Florida." He is currently a PhD student in Dr. Jeanette Wyneken's laboratory and his research involves two imperiled species of marine turtles that nest in southern Florida, the green sea turtle and the leatherback turtle. His research aims to identify the number of males that contribute to the nests on our local beaches and determine how many males there should be in these populations. His work has identified multiple paternity in both species (females can store sperm) and determined that there are more males in the population than expected. These male biased breeding sex ratios are incredibly encouraging that these turtle populations are in fact increasing and not in danger of losing genetic diversity. 


Boris Tezak presented his research in a poster entitled "Can sex-specific proteins be used as a reliable method to identify the sex of sea turtle hatchlings?" He is currently a PhD student in Dr. Jeanette Wyneken's laboratory and his research involves developing methods to identify the sex in marine turtle hatchling via analysis of blood samples. In marine turtles, sex is determined based on the incubation environment that an embryo experiences, particularly temperature. Because sex determination in turtles is so closely linked to environmental conditions, the most common prediction associated with climate change is that marine turtles will be at a higher risk of extinction if sex ratios become dramatically female-biased. His research uses immunoassays to detect the expression of several proteins known to play an important role in sex differentiation and results have revealed a protein (AMH) that is only present in male blood samples and completely absent in females, making it very easy and reliable to identify the sex in hatchlings. Finding a sex-specific marker in hatchling turtle blood samples will allow for large scale measurements and verification of naturally occurring sea turtle sex ratios, a crucial step in assessing the impacts of climate change on turtle demographics.