student presents findings on coli bacteria

Three University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) students have been announced the winners of the 2023 Fall Student Research Symposium held on Sept. 17, in the University’s 13D Research and Innovation Center.   

Mia Bruno, a junior majoring in biology, was awarded first place for her research, where she posed and executed the question; “Does Interferon Regulatory Factor 6 impact the presence of the periderm?” Periderm is a protective tissue of secondary origin that replaces the epidermal cell layer when damaged. The outstanding student explored the critical, developmental gene interference in the outer layers of skin in embryos between wildtype and mutant cells. Bruno was assisted by Martine Dunnwald from the University of Iowa. 

Second place was awarded to Akilah Hodge, a senior studying biology and psychology. Hodge’s research focuses on the Role of IRF6 in Periderm during Palate Development. With the help of Brian Schutte from Michigan State University, she was able to conduct and present her findings.  

Abigail Rose, a sophomore majoring in chemistry, earned the third-place award. Rose’s research examines the Seasonal Differences in Total Coliform and Escherichia coli from Cistern Water in St. Croix. She was aided by UVI Associate Professor, Dr. Bernard Castillo.  

All three winners were awarded monetary prizes. The winners were among dozens of UVI students who presented their research. UVI’s ECS Program encourages students to advance their skills and achieve excellence in research and training through various seminars, programs, and activities.  

The Fall Symposium is hosted by the University’s Emerging Caribbean Scientists (ECS) Program and the College of Science and Mathematics and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Education, as well as private agencies. Visit their website at 


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