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UVI Students Earn Top Scores & Full Travel Awards at Fall Research Symposium

UVI student discuss their research at the Fall Research Symposium.

The University of the Virgin Islands announced the winners of the 20th annual Fall Research Symposium held on Sept. 21, on the St. Thomas Campus.   Six students earning top scores and several others were awarded thousands of dollars in travel grants through federal and private funding.  Kervin Mathurin, J’Nique Ronan, Kiwanee Smith, Gerlinder Difo-Cheri, Makeda Mills, and Orian Stapleton were named winners at the Symposium, for their research.  

Students at the symposium presented the results of their research project in a two-hour scientific poster session. This year’s symposium had a total of 50 participants presenting on various topics which included:  Visualizing the Hidden World: Utilizing CARD-FISH to Detect Microbes Exposed to Oil, Self-Sufficient Solutions for Island Communities,” and Reef Restoration: Tracking Coral Growth on Different Nursery Structures. 

The annual Fall Research Symposium is always a reflection of UVI’s mission and visionUVI aims to educate and empower in an environment that promotes creativity and innovation, said UVI Provost Dr. Camille McKayle.  At the core of UVI’s mission and vision are the students. The research symposium is the result of an environment that encourages students to engage with their work through research; encourages students to take advantage of opportunities both on campus and off campus at other institutions and laboratories; encourages faculty to engage students in innovative ways, and encourages researchers to utilize their expertise in addressing some of the Territory’s issues, Dr. McKayle continued. We are pleased to recognize the winners, but also abundantly pleased with the large number of students participating.” 

In addition to this recognition, 26 students from the symposium will receive full travel awards to present at a national research conference. Sixteen students will attend the 2019 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Anaheim, CA, in November of this year. Furthermore, 10 students will attend the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM in Washington, D.C. in February 2020. Through funding from several federal grants and donors, approximately $50,000 in travel awards is expected to be awarded to these students. The students who earned top scores expressed their gratitude and overwhelming joy as well as special thanks for their accomplishments. 

I was ecstatic when I found out I received a top score. One of the judges was very critical of my poster so I did not think I would do that well,” said Stapleton. I guess the hard work paid off, as it always does. I must thank all of my mentors at MIT for the opportunity to do research, as well as the professors in the physics and science and math department at UVI for their support.”  

“I felt a great sense of jubilation seeing the outcome of a research project in which piqued my interest from the very beginning,” said Mathurin, who thanked the professors of the Physics Program. 

“When I discovered that I was a top-scorer, a shower of excitement washed over me as I let it sink in. In my opinion, the most important part of science is being able to communicate it,” said Mills. This allowed me to feel as though I did well enough to be recognized. This makes me more motivated to dedicate myself not only to my research but also the comprehension of my research throughout my scientific career.” 

“When I found out I had received top scores, I felt a sense of pride in my research and the effort I put into understanding and developing my project,” said Difo-Cheri. 

Ronan and Smith said it was a great feeling to know that all their hard work paid off and that many of the attendees enjoyed their project. Both students are excited about the opportunity to go to the mainland to present their research on “Self-Sufficient Solutions for Island Communities” in hopes that they can encourage small communities like ourselves to be sufficient with the resources that are provided. They thanked their mentors Dr. Greg Guannel and Megan Grant for their guidance. 

Aimee Sanchez, grant program manager for the College of Science and Mathematics, thanked all who participated in the Fall Research Symposium. “We are always amazed by the high quality of student presentations,” she said. “They shined with excellence and poise.”  

For more information, contact UVI Public Relations Office at (340693-1059 or