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Five Things Alumni Need to Know — April 20, 2015

(PHOTO: UCF Today)

Blue Man Group presented 12-year-old Wyatt Falardeau with his very own Blue Man bionic arm. (Photo: UCF Today)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. UCF’s Limbitless Solutions, the team that made an Ironman bionic arm for 7-year-old Alex Pring (presented to him by Robert Downey Jr. in a what became a viral video), also surprised 12-year-old Wyatt Falardeau with a Blue Man Group arm. Watch the video, shown at a special press conference held this morning at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.
  2. The UCF Alumni Association and UCF College of Medicine partnered together to present MedTalk, an informal lecture series that allows everyone interested in medicine to join in and learn more about current and innovative issues in the field. The inaugural talk, about why your brain gets sick, takes place this Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Downtown PourHouse.
  3. The UCF Young Alumni Chapter hosts its annual Professional Conference (ProCon) today and tomorrow at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, where students and young alumni have access to information sessions including resume writing, social media and finances, while getting to network with fellow Knights and interview with companies looking to hire.
  4. The UCF College of Business Administration held its annual Joust competition last week, with Talon Simulations, which creates virtual reality simulations for flight training and gaming, claiming the first place prize of $10,000.
  5. UCF Football played its spring game on Saturday, providing a preview of this year’s team.

Alumni Staff Represents UCF at Annual Corporate 5K


On Thursday, April 16, UCF Alumni runners (pictured above, left to right) Ann Allen, ’03, Jacey Poppell, ’05, Shawna Duane, Bianca Sabrkhani, ’00, Michelle Iseman and Stephanie Sheppard, ’12, represented the university at the Insurance Office of America’s annual 5K through downtown Orlando.

They joined 58 other faculty and staff members representing UCF in the Central Florida business community, while also promoting a healthy workplace.

Team UCF came in third and fourth place in the coed education division.

Congrats to all!

UCF Communication Alumni Launch Mentorship Program

Nicholson School of Communication student Vanessa Rodriguez (left) talks with Paula Machado, '12, a reporter for InfoMas.

Nicholson School of Communication student Vanessa Rodriguez (left) talks with Paula Machado, ’12, a reporter for InfoMas.

By Anne Shirley Lewis, UCF Knightly News
Co-authored by Julia Anderson, UCF College of Sciences

UCF Nicholson School of Communication students met with their mentors for the first time at the pilot mentorship program breakfast, which was held by the UCF NSC Alumni Chapter on Wednesday morning in the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

The purpose of the program is to connect students with alumni who share similar academic backgrounds, professional interests and career fields.

This is the first program of its kind, said Shaloni Prine, ’07, assistant director of the UCF College of Sciences Alumni Relations. If this pilot does well, it will be implemented throughout the entire college.

Mentors share experiences, provide new perspectives and insight into their specific industry, enhance the mentees’ skill sets and add knowledge about advancement, according the mentorship handbook.

Alumni working in the areas of radio-television, journalism and public relations were selected as mentors for the pilot program. The diverse selection of alumni represent companies including EA Sports, Hearst News Corp., News 13 and the Orlando Sentinel.

Students in the Nicholson School are nominated by their professors to be a part of this program. The nominated students are paired with alumni for a three-month mentorship program ending in July.

Each mentor and mentee is required to meet a minimum of three times — whether that be face to face, via phone or by email — and discuss career information, common interests, accomplishments and dos and don’ts of networking.

“It’s really your network, which is key to your development,” says Lauren Gustafson, ’08, chair-elect of the UCF NSC Alumni Chapter. “It’s the network that you build that is crucial to moving to the next step. Every job I’ve had, I’ve gotten from people I know.”

UCF faculty members Tim Brown and Rick Brunson attended the event on behalf of the Nicholson School of Communication.

If you’re interested in participating as a mentor in the Knights & Squires mentorship program, please email nsc@ucfalumni.com.

Read the original story.

UCF Professors Lead Boston Alumni on Exploration of Ancient Maya Civilization


The Boston UCF Alumni Club and UCF College of Sciences presented A Knight at the Museum on Friday, April 10, 2015,
during which Pegasus Professors and archaeologists Diane and Arlen Chase (center) spoke with alumni about some of the artifacts they excavated for the largest Maya exhibit in the nation.

By Barbara LeBlanc
Freelance Writer, UCF Foundation Inc.

Thousands of people have visited “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” since the exhibition premiered at the Science Museum of Minnesota in 2013. But on Friday night, only UCF alumni were lucky enough to be guided through the exhibit by the very archaeologists who excavated many of the artifacts on display.

Pegasus Professors Arlen and Diane Chase were at the Boston Museum of Science to lead about 70 UCF alumni on a special viewing of the largest Maya exhibit ever mounted in the United States. Michael Johnson, dean of the UCF College of Sciences and a Boston native, was also on hand.

Only a portion of the full exhibit is on display in Boston, as it travels around the country, but it includes ample materials unearthed by the Chases and the UCF students who dig alongside them in Belize. The husband-and-wife team have been leading excavations of Maya treasures there since 1979, first at Santa Rita Corozal and since 1985 at Caracol.

The Chases, who came to UCF in 1984 to establish a program in Maya archaeology, work only with UCF students or graduates at Caracol, which at 200 square kilometers is the largest known Maya site. The couple was fresh off their 2015 digging season when they traveled to Boston to point out exhibit highlights for alumni and answer their questions. The Chases consulted heavily on the exhibit.

“We read every label and proofed them,” said Diane of the displays of their work. She serves as UCF’s vice provost for academic program quality. Arlen is an associate dean in the College of Sciences.

“I already had tickets to come to this exhibit, so I was planning to come anyway,” said Roberto Santamaria ’09, deputy director of public health for the town of Framingham, Mass. “But it’s unbelievable that we can be with the people who actually did the archaeology. It’s a little surreal.”

Ariel Shapiro ’11, a behavior therapist for Southbay Mental Health, said she never thought she’d see a UCF alumni event in Massachusetts. “I thought I’d have to go to Florida,” she said. She was so pleased when she heard of the Museum of Science event, she immediately decided to attend.

Santamaria is Costa Rican, and was thrilled to see his own culture and heritage presented in such depth. And the fact that professors from his alma mater were involved? “That makes it even better,” he said.


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Five Things Alumni Need to Know — April 13, 2015


Teacher candidates in the College of Education and Human Performance’s Elementary Education program work directly with grade school students on reading and vocabulary lessons. (Photo: UCF Today)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. UCF Pegasus Professors and archaeologists Arlen and Diane Chase shared some of their excavated artifacts with alumni in Boston during a special Knight at the Museum event that highlighted the “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science.
  2. Mark your calendar for Wednesday, April 22, when the UCF College of Medicine and the UCF Alumni Association present their inaugural UCF MedTalk. Whether you’re a College of Medicine grad, or just a curious Knight who enjoys learning more about current and innovative issues in medicine, all are encouraged to join this unique conversation. The first topic will be “The Cannibal and the Railway Worker’s Wife: Why your brain gets sick,” presented by Stephen Lambert, a biochemistry and cell biology teacher in the college.
  3. A new UCF program to provide an immersive college experience for students with intellectual disabilities is gearing up to start this fall, and the first public information session will be held on campus this Thursday, April 16.
  4. “America’s Partnership University” is living up to its name, engaging undergraduates, faculty, community school teachers and local school districts in mutually beneficial programs, including one offered at Stenstrom Elementary in Oviedo, where teacher candidates provide weekly one-on-one tutoring to first graders and internship I students conduct student assessments.
  5. Roll up your sleeve and give the gift of life! The Big Red Bus will be at the Student Union on UCF’s Main Campus every day this week, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

UCF Community Honors Lives of Eternal Knights

The Pegasus seal in the Student Union is decorated with golden roses and candles during the annual Eternal Knights ceremony, which honors the lives of students who passed away during the year.

The Pegasus seal in the Student Union is decorated with flowers and candles during the annual Eternal Knights ceremony, which honors the lives of students who passed away while enrolled. (PHOTO: Bernard Wilchusky, Central Florida Future)

On Thursday, April 9, at 4 p.m., fellow students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered in the Pegasus Ballroom at the Student Union for the annual Eternal Knights ceremony, during which they honored the lives of 11 Knights who passed away during recent academic terms, and observed 22 seconds of silence — two seconds for each student we lost.

Those named as Eternal Knights at the 2015 ceremony included:

  • Marc Abrams | Health Services Administration, College of Health and Public Affairs
  • Adam Bee | Biology, College of Sciences
  • Lauren Bonn | Nursing, College of Nursing
  • Santiago Diaz | Psychology, College of Sciences
  • Brandon Dickerson | Film, College of Arts and Humanities
  • Kuistin Gaskin | Film, College of Arts and Humanities
  • Shayne Ivill | Interdisciplinary Studies, Office of Undergraduate Studies
  • Melanie Kaprocki | Computer Science Ph.D., College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Crevan O’Ceallaigh | Criminal Justice M.S., College of Health and Public Affairs
  • Melissa Ostrom | Nursing, College of Nursing
  • Jasen Stone | Health Services Administration, College of Health and Public Affairs
  • Dara Wells | Exceptional Student Education M.Ed., College of Education and Human Performance

“Gone yet not forgotten, although we are apart, your spirit lives within me, forever in my heart.”

UCF Scientist Develops $1 Prostate Cancer Screening Test

Dr. Qun "Treen" Huo of UCF's NanoScience Technology Center has developed a prostate cancer test using gold nanoparticles. Pilot studies found it to be more accurate than the standard PSA test.

Dr. Qun “Treen” Huo of UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center has developed a prostate cancer test using gold nanoparticles. Pilot studies found it to be more accurate than the standard PSA test.

By Mark Schlueb
UCF Today

A test that costs less than a $1 and yields results in minutes has been shown in newly published studies to be more sensitive and more exact than the current standard test for early-stage prostate cancer.

The simple test developed by University of Central Florida scientist Qun “Treen” Huo holds the promise of earlier detection of one of the deadliest cancers among men. It would also reduce the number of unnecessary and invasive biopsies stemming from the less precise PSA test that’s now used.

“It’s fantastic,” said Dr. Inoel Rivera, a urologic oncologist at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, which collaborated with Huo on the recent pilot studies. “It’s a simple test. It’s much better than the test we have right now, which is the PSA, and it’s cost-effective.”

When a cancerous tumor begins to develop, the body mobilizes to produce antibodies. Huo’s test detects that immune response using gold nanoparticles about 10,000 times smaller than a freckle.

When a few drops of blood serum from a finger prick are mixed with the gold nanoparticles, certain cancer biomarkers cling to the surface of the tiny particles, increasing their size and causing them to clump together.

Among researchers, gold nanoparticles are known for their extraordinary efficiency at absorbing and scattering light. Huo and her team at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center developed a technique known as nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay (NanoDLSay) to measure the size of the particles by analyzing the light they throw off. That size reveals whether a patient has prostate cancer and how advanced it may be.

And although it uses gold, the test is cheap. A small bottle of nanoparticles suspended in water costs about $250, and contains enough for about 2,500 tests.

“What’s different and unique about our technique is it’s a very simple process, and the material required for the test is less than $1,” Huo said. “And because it’s low-cost, we’re hoping most people can have this test in their doctor’s office. If we can catch this cancer in its early stages, the impact is going to be big.”

After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second-leading killer cancer among men, with more than 240,000 new diagnoses and 28,000 deaths every year. The most commonly used screening tool is the PSA, but it produces so many false-positive results – leading to painful biopsies and extreme treatments – that one of its discoverers recently called it “hardly more effective than a coin toss.”

Pilot studies found Huo’s technique is significantly more exact. The test determines with 90 to 95 percent confidence that the result is not false-positive. When it comes to false-negatives, there is 50 percent confidence – not ideal, but still significantly higher than the PSA’s 20 percent – and Huo is working to improve that number.

The results of the pilot studies were published recently in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. Huo is also scheduled to present her findings in June at the TechConnect World Innovation Summit & Expo in suburban Washington, D.C.

Huo’s team is pursuing more extensive clinical validation studies with Florida Hospital and others, including the VA Medical Center Orlando. She hopes to complete major clinical trials and see the test being used by physicians in two to three years.

Huo also is researching her technique’s effectiveness as a screening tool for other tumors.

“Potentially, we could have a universal screening test for cancer,” she said. “Our vision is to develop an array of blood tests for early detection and diagnosis of all major cancer types, and these blood tests are all based on the same technique and same procedure.”

Huo co-founded Nano Discovery Inc., a startup company headquartered in a UCF Business Incubator, to commercialize the new diagnostic test. The company manufacturers a test device specifically for medical research and diagnostic purposes.

This article was republished from an April 3, 2015, edition of UCF Today. See original article. 

Young CECS Alumnus Establishes Leadership Scholarship


Matt Harrison, ’13, didn’t waste any time giving back to his alma mater. Less than six months after graduating, he established a leadership scholarship within the College of Engineering and Computer Science, which is awarded annually to two deserving students.

By Mike Candelaria, ‘83
UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science

Matt Harrison personifies giving back to UCF. A May 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, he has already established a scholarship dedicated to excellence at the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science: the Leadership Scholarship.

As a student, Harrison was active on campus, attending numerous engineering events, serving as chapter president of both the Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity and the American Society for Engineering Education, and asserting himself as part of the UCF Engineering Leadership and Innovation Institute (eli²). In turn, as a person, he grew. Harrison, for example, attributes much of his early career success to eli²:

“I learned how to be a leader, and I learned how to communicate,” he says.

These days, those lessons serve him well as a medical engineer at 3D Medical Manufacturing in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he is largely a trouble-shooter who works to ensure quality standards. Continually on the move at 3D Medical, he solves problems involving a variety of people; interaction is a key part of getting his job done. “I use my resources to fix problems, and the ability to share my vision is one of those resources.”

Now, he’s returning the favor to UCF.

Four days after graduating, he began working at 3D Medical Manufacturing. By fall 2013, his Leadership Scholarship was in place, benefiting two students.

Each year, a scholarship will be given to two students of the College of Engineering and Computer Science who demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities. Applicants must be enrolled full-time and they must write an essay describing their current leadership roles and ambitions as a leader.

Harrison established the criteria himself. “I wanted a scholarship that was not based on GPA, but rather on leadership ability and the willingness to give back to UCF,” he says. He also selects the recipients with help from Tim Kotnour, Ph.D., a professor in the UCF Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems, and director of eli². The scholarship doesn’t bare Harrison’s name, with the hope that other alumni will contribute to it.

“My goal is to not only give back, but also to inspire others to see their full potential,” he says. “I will always take an opportunity to give back what UCF has given me — and that is the ability to think strategically, give willingly and lead courageously.

“My aim is to not only build confidence in the leadership recipients, but to also instill the responsibility of paying it forward.”

Notably, he opted not to wait after graduating from UCF. “If you’re going to do something, you should start early,” he says. “I figured that if I started early, I would put myself into the habit of giving back as I grow older.”

Harrison contributes to UCF in other ways, as well, returning to campus to serve as a guest speaker and as a mentor to the types of students he represented not long ago. “UCF,” he says, “means so much to me.”

More Info

UCF Engineering Leadership and Innovation Institute (eli²)

This article was republished from the news section of the College of Engineering and Computer Science website. See original article. 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — April 6, 2015


Click on the image to watch the YouTube video.

Here are five things you need to know this week:

  1. A UCF scientist developed a $1 prostate screening test that’s more accurate than the standard PSA test currently being used for early-stage detection.
  2. On Wednesday, alumni and students will take over Tallahassee for the annual UCF Day at the Capital, where Knights Advocates and SGA will meet with our lawmakers to discuss UCF’s legislative priorities and ask for their support.
  3. Aerospace engineering graduate Matt Harrison, ’13, established a leadership scholarship in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “My goal is to not only give back, but also to inspire others to see their full potential,” he says.
  4. UCF Celebrates the Arts is a free, seven-day festival celebrating Central Florida’s performing and visual arts. It takes place April 10-15 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and will showcase UCF theatre, dance, film, and more.
  5. Starting Wednesday, members of the 2015 senior class will take part in #MyUCFStory on Instagram — a photo challenge started by the alumni association to increase social interaction with our newest alumni to be! Click on the hashtag above to follow along!

Student Builds Collection of Old-School Games, Consoles

Brian Smith with his retro consoles, (left to right) SNES, Sega Genesis CD/32X, Famicom, NES, Super Famicom, Atari 2600 and Sega Master System (Photo: Courtesy of Brian Smith)

Brian Smith poses with his retro consoles, which include SNES, Sega Genesis CD/32X, Famicom, NES, Super Famicom, Atari 2600 and Sega Master System. (Photo: Courtesy of Brian Smith)

By Caroline Glenn
Central Florida Future

A fire breaks out and you can only save one material object: Your first instinct is probably to divefor your laptop, iPhone or maybe your Xbox or Playstation. Brian Smith, on the other hand, would brave the flames for his copy of Super Mario RPG Legend of the Seven Stars, circa 1996.

Just one of the items in his collection of more than 1,000 video game consoles, games and memorabilia, Super Mario RPG came into Smith’s possession when it first came out almost two decades ago. Likely the most valuable game he owns, it is still one he plays today — on his Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which debuted in 1990. He also owns the Japanese version of the system, the Famicom, which Smith bagged during a trip to Japan’s Super Potato, a retro gaming store in Akihabara.

“I have seen recently that it can go to the upwards of $200 or so for a complete in-box copy … ,” the 29-year-old explained. “I knew I was going to love the game even before it came out, so I just made sure to buy it as soon as I saw it in stores.”

With 25 systems, more than 100 NES games, around 70 Atari games and between 60 and 70 SNES games, plus the first Final Fantasy still in the box, Smith’s collection first started on Christmas 1989 with the gift of a Nintendo Entertainment System from his parents.

Although he’s never had his collection appraised, its value is measured in the memories he’s made, and those to be made in the future.

“It’s more about the nostalgia for me,” he said. “If anything, I want my kids to play the games I played as a kid.”

In fact, the senior interdisciplinary studies major joked that video games are what convinced him his wife was the one. While dating his now-wife Allaina, his future mother-in-law stumbled upon an entire collection of Atari games in her home.

“She just had it sitting in her garage,” Smith said. “That might have been why I married her.”

Among the dusty cartridges was Atari’s E.T., a 1982 release also known as one of the worst video games ever released. Widely blamed for the start of the Great Video Game Crash of 1983, E.T. was treated like an unwanted blemish Atari giants quickly wished to cover up, explained UCF graduate teaching associate Nathan Snow. In lieu of a mother-in-law’s cluttered garage, Atari chose the New Mexico desert, where, in the dark of the night, Atari executives buried the embarrassing failure.

Similar to the fate of Smith’s copy, years later, the sandy cartridges would be unearthed during a 2013 dig, documented through the film Atari: Game Over.

Although some of the items found among his shelf of treasures may not have been popular when they first came out, their stories bring color to his collection. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, a failed portable game console, for example, is a visor-like contraption that was released in 1995 and discontinued after only a year.

“The Virtual Boy is kind of considered to be one of the worst systems ever made, and especially by Nintendo. Most people didn’t want to own one and it lost the company a ton of money,” Smith said of the item. “It basically had no good games and gave people migraines to play, so there is really no reason to own one other than as a collection piece.”

Smith swiped his from a Walmart closeout sale for only about $20, and Snow says the “immense flop” is one of his favorite items from his student’s collection. But its unique “other-worldly” look is what makes it so cool, he said, in addition to its sad story. The console was the last thing Gunpei Yokoi designed, and soon after, he was killed in a tragic car accident never to redeem himself.

Not one to directly seek out collectibles, Smith came across most of his items by surprise. He recalled the day a man walked into a GameStop, where he used to work, with a fully operational Sega Master System. The system predates the days of Sonic the Hedgehog as part of a simpler time when Alex Kidd served as the company’s mascot, Snow said.

He was hoping to trade it in, Smith said, but with a release dating back to 1986, Smith offered to take it off his hands. His wife still finds retro games tucked away on thrift store shelves from time to time.

As an only child, Smith’s main form of entertainment was video games — as well as a source of education. Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, in which the player has to find Mickey’s puppy playmate Pluto, motivated him to learn to read. His copy of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? even came with an encyclopedia.

Smith plans to keep adding to his collection as new games and consoles come out, but he usually has one response when people ask him if he’s played the latest release.

“I still have NES Nintendo games I need to beat.”

This article was republished from the Central Florida Future. See the original article, which was posted on March 19, 2015.

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