Researchers Named Rising Stars of Science 

Two researchers in the College of Sciences were named Rising Stars of Science by the Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida (ASEMFL).  

Assistant Professor Kerri Donaldson Hanna, Ph.D., and Associate Professor Xiaohou Xia, Ph.D., will present their research and receive the honor at the annual ASEMFL conference in early November.  

Donaldson Hanna is a planetary geologist with multiple research projects tied to NASA. She was one of three UCF faculty members who selected the asteroid landing site for the recently returned OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. She’s also partnering with her colleague in the Department of Physics Associate Professor Addie Dove, Ph.D., on a $35 million mission to land a spacecraft on the moon’s unexplored Gruithuisen Domes.   

“It’s pretty humbling to be chosen as a rising star,” she said.  

Xia specializes in chemistry and biomedicine, with a focus on artificial enzymes. Natural enzymes in the body perform tasks like breaking down proteins in the small intestine and converting starches to sugar. Enzymes built in the laboratory use inorganic materials like metal, which improves durability and efficiency.  

Xia’s research focuses on their utility in diagnostic tests. One of the most recognizable examples is the modern COVID-19 test, which provides quick results at the expense of reliability. The goal of Xia’s research is similar tests that can accurately test for serious illnesses like cancer.  

“I’m honored to be selected as a rising star,” Xia said. “This inspires and encourages me to continue pursuing research excellence.”  

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