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- by Theresa L Woods

The Mom’s Project Award is given annually to worthy students whose interests align with those of the mothers of the program’s founding faculty members – Drs. Catherine Batsche, Roger Boothroyd, and Mary Armstrong.  This year’s recipients stand out from the crowd as exemplary students with established track records in research and plans to follow research-related careers in their fields.

As they applied for this scholarship, they also applied for undergraduate research assistantships to help further hone research skills with faculty who share their research interests. All three recipients have already worked with CBCS faculty on substantial research projects.

Megan Porter: Mom’s Project Scholarship Recipient & Exemplary Student

Like every USF student, Megan Porter will spend time looking back on her time as a Bull during her graduation ceremony on May 15. The notoriously long ceremony, however, might not be enough time to reminisce on all her accomplishments as a student. The list is extensive, including a study abroad trip to Madrid, participation in academic programs, scholarships, and ample research experience.

“Research has always been my long-standing interest,” says Porter. “I love statistics and the difficulty of the day-to-day challenge that research brings to a career.”

Porter, who has been nominated for the cum distinction by the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders, was awarded the prestigious Mom’s Project Scholarship award by the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences based on her research. Porter’s research into the role of social supports and coping skills in the quality of life of Meniere’s patients led her to a joint publication with Dr. Boothroyd in the Journal of Chronic Illness.

In addition to publication for this research, Porter was also featured in the Undergraduate Research Colloquium on April 9, which recognizes excellence among undergraduate research in a poster session.

Porter honed her research skills in the RISE program at USF where participants complete several research courses with hands-on experience in quantitative and qualitative research.  She also participated in the Summer Research Institute at the Florida Mental Health Institute (SRI@FMHI).

“My educational goals have never been to stop at a Bachelor’s degree,” says Porter. I have always wanted to pursue graduate school as well as a doctorate degree and provide clinical services in my field of Speech-Language Pathology.”

Porter will go on to the Master’s Program in Speech-Language Pathology in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Jacqueline Rivera – A Triple Threat

Jacqueline Rivera has some serious ambition. With a double major in behavioral healthcare and psychology and a minor in criminology, Rivera is preparing herself for a long career in research. Since 2013, she has taken research-centric classes that have prepared her for working with various research methods and writing for publication, and she’s all ready putting it to good use as undergraduate research assistant to Dr. Cathy Moore and Dr. Scott Young of the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy.

Rivera is already wading into the waters of serious academic research. She has worked on an updated literature review for “medication –assisted treatment offenders” for a peer-reviewed publication and worked on data entry for multiple drug court projects focused in the bay area community.

“By participating in the Undergraduate Research Experience, I hope that I will be able to learn more about current programs and policies for treating substance use. I also think that this is a great way to learn new areas of research and identify areas of research that interest me the most,” Rivera continues. “I can identify where gaps in the research exist and learn about the quality of programs being used.”

With hopes that her research will impact substance use treatment and advance evidence-based practices in the field, Rivera will pursue a master’s degree and a career researching and developing programs for juvenile offender populations.

If her ability to juggle two majors and a minor while maintaining a 3.98 GPA are any indication, juggling multiple research projects and making an impact in the behavioral healthcare community are right up Rivera’s alley.

Elizabeth Crowley - Passion for Research and Positive Aging

Elizabeth Crowley already has her foot in the door when it comes to positive aging research well before her Spring 2015 graduation.  She works with a team of doctors and research assistants to study the CogState Brief Battery – a computer-based test designed to assess cognitive health in aging individuals. After getting involved, Crowley began laying the groundwork for longer involvement in the research process.

“I have developed a passion for this area of work,” says Crowley, who is applying to multiple programs focused on gerontology and positive aging here at the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

“When applying to graduate programs, prior research experience is very important,” says Crowley. “The Undergraduate Research Experience would aid in my research career because it would allow me to continue working with my current team and I would be gaining even more experience in the field.”

Crowley intends to engage in a large-scale implementation of the CogState Brief Battery to help detect early signs of cognitive decline in older adults.

“Personally, I find this research very rewarding because I value social interaction and this study allows me to meet several different people each week,” says Crowley. “Because our study takes place over the course of a year, I will continue this project, hopefully, for the full term and will get to assist with the final results and conclusion.”

Crowley also values developing economical solutions for positive aging and calls the CogState Brief Battery innovative. “Most cognitive screenings administered by a doctor or physician can take up to eight hours and also a large amount of money. This program is cheap and brief while allowing frequent administration and therefore early detection of oncoming cognitive problems.

Crowley’s dedication to her current project, awareness of interests, and vision for her own future and that of her research field will carry her through the next phase of her academic career and into a long and productive relationship with research faculty.

Congratulations to The Mom’s Project Award recipients, and good luck in your future endeavors within USF and beyond.

College of Behavioral & Community Sciences Mark