Biology Student Awarded at Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Conference 

Stefannia Tasayco on stage holding a folder with her award

Biology student Stefannia Tasayco recently had the opportunity to attend the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans (SACNAS) 2023 National Diversity in STEM Conference in Portland, Oregon. She was selected for the Outstanding Research Presentation award for her research poster on seagrass and living shoreline restoration. Read what she had to say about her experience below. 

What research did you present at the conference? 

At the conference, I presented a poster on the research I conducted over the summer of 2023 as an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) student funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). As part of this opportunity, I was paired with a faculty mentor, Melinda Donnelly, Ph.D., to work alongside her and other researchers on seagrass and living shoreline restoration. 

Stefannia Tasyco presenting her research

Finally exercising the scientific method that I had been learning about on paper for years, I became a leading scientist for these 10 weeks. Our main research assessment was on the advantage of concurrent living shoreline restoration on the success of seagrass planting in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida.  

Procedures for this analysis included weekly monitoring of seagrass growth and density, observational and abiotic data collection and the use of R studio to create parsimonious models that would facilitate how I communicated my findings. With guidance and support from CEE Lab (Coastal and Estuarine Ecology Lab), I was prepared to explain and start a discourse about every part of my research. 

Tell us about the award you won. 

My award reads “Outstanding Research Presentation.” It was given to select undergraduate poster presenters in every discipline. During my presentation, mentor judges stepped forward to hear about my research and asked specific questions, challenging my knowledge on various topics.  

What was your favorite part of the conference? 

The conference was extremely inclusive, and everyone wanted to see each other succeed. That was my favorite part. The opening ceremony set a precedent for the rest of the week and the energy in the room built off those that organized the event. Keynote speakers not only focused on the celebration of culture and diversity, but also on how proud everyone was of each other for the growth and recognition SACNAS had gained over the years. During the Career and Graduate School Expo, every booth I visited was equipped with encouraging resources, not just informational pamphlets. The room was buzzing with excited students and equally excited recruiters. I felt celebrated the entire time I was there. 

What are your career goals after graduation?  

After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school seeking a Ph.D. degree. My research goals include the use of toxicology, my ongoing experience in marine science and water systems and my passion for environmental policy and advocacy to increase equitable urban living situations. Above all, I strive to become a professor and an inspiration through science communication. I hope to find an interdisciplinary laboratory in graduate school that can stimulate my interests, and I hope to become part of an amazing scientific team, wherever that takes me. 

Learn more about the UCF Department of Biology.  

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