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Watch our past STEM virtual chats anytime, anywhere!

Previous Bio Chats

Fauna to Flora: How Two Biologists Shifted Their Focus presented by Jennifer Elliott and Kelsie Johnson

UCF Alumni Jennifer Elliott and Kelsie Johnson began their undergraduate careers at UCF studying sea turtles with the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group (UCFMTRG), but then shifted to studying plants and ecology upon graduation. Follow their journey from when they began as undergraduate students, joined the UCFMTRG, graduated from UCF, and then transitioned to a career studying plants. You will learn about their life experiences and all there is to offer at the UCF Arboretum, where they are active in their careers today!


Zombie Ants: Studying the Biology of Nature’s Real Life Body Snatchers presented by Dr. Charissa de Bekker

Dr. de Bekker’s lab at UCF investigates the biology of zombie-making parasites and their hosts. More specifically, her lab studies how a fungal parasite changes the behavior of ants so the ants do exactly what the fungus needs to keep spreading. You can even find these so-called zombie ants in Central Florida! In her presentation, Dr. de Bekker will give you an idea of the research questions she is asking and what her day-to-day research looks like to answer those questions.


4 Jobs in 1: Stormwater Coordinator, Land Manager, GIS Analyst, Teacher and Mentor presented by Amanda Lindsay

Join UCF Biologist Amanda Lindsay for an interactive presentation as she shares her experiences in academia and duties as a biologist with UCF’s Landscape and Natural Resources program. Get to know the 4 hats that Amanda wears in her current position and learn about options for professions in each category and stepping stones to get there!


Friends and Enemies: How Plant Chemistry Mediates both Defense and Symbiosis presented by Dr. Chase Mason

Plants are chemical factories – they produce a huge diversity of metabolites with wide-ranging effects. Some of these metabolites defend plants from herbivores and pathogens, while others attract pollinators or promote the growth beneficial microbes, and some are even potent poisons to other plants. Join Dr. Chase Mason for this interactive series as he discusses how plants can be both friends and enemies!


Sustaining our Natural World: Careers in Environmental Science and Environmental Engineering presented by Jackie Sullivan

Join Jackie Sullivan, UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Adjunct Instructor, for an interactive session where students can learn about the similarities and differences of these two career options related to their primary focus, academic course requirements/rigor, real-world project examples, and research/employment opportunities!



The Gopher Tortoise: A Threatened Keystone Species presented by Terry Williamson

Join Ecologist, Environmental Scientist, and FWC Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent Terry Williamson as he dives into the life history of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) in Florida and discusses his role in gopher tortoise relocation, conservation, and mitigating for habitat loss!


IRL Microplastics presented by Katherine Harris and Dr. Linda Walters

Microplastics. You have probably heard of them; the tiny plastics that are having an enormous impact on the world around us. The Coastal and Estuarine Ecology Lab at the University of Central Florida has spent years researching the impact of microplastics in the Indian River Lagoon. During this Bio Chat, Dr. Walters and Katherine Harris will demonstrate and discuss the fieldwork and lab work that goes into understanding the impact microplastics are having on one of the Indian River Lagoon’s most important habitats: the oyster reef.


It’s Purple Martin Time! presented by Dr. Anna Forsman

Have you ever seen a purple martin or heard their chattering song? There is a good chance that you have, even if you didn’t know it at the time. Purple martins are North America’s largest swallow. They breed across much of the United States and then migrate southward to winter in Brazil. As of spring 2020, UCF has become a hotspot for seeing purple martins in action! With the help of enthusiastic UCF students, Dr. Anna Forsman of UCF Biology, has established the UCF Purple Martin Project, which supplies over 140 nesting gourds for these fascinating birds. During this Bio Chat, Dr. Forsman will talk about the history of the special relationship that purple martins have developed with humans in North America and how scientists and citizens continue to interact with these birds to promote their conservation and greater understanding of their biology and ecology. Dr. Forsman will also talk about how her lab is using genomic techniques (and bird poop) to figure out what types of insects the martins are eating and to characterize the microbial communities living in the guts of these swallows. Join us for Purple Martin Time!


Conserving Biodiversity Through a STEM Career in Biology presented by Dr. Patrick Bohlen

Biodiversity loss is a major global problem. The current rapid loss of species and the ongoing degradation of ecosystems is as great a threat to the future stability and prosperity of human society as other major issues such as climate change.  Join Dr. Bohlen in a chat to learn about ways you can combine your passion for the environment and interest in biology into a STEM career that will help conserve and sustain the world’s biodiversity.


Sea Turtles in Florida and Beyond presented by Katie Martin

Join PhD student Katie Martin for an interactive session where viewers learn about the sea turtle species that call Florida and its nearshore waters home. Katie will cover general sea turtle biology, the work being done by UCF’s Marine Turtle Research Group to better understand Florida sea turtles, and specifically, the research she does to understand sea turtle immune systems.


Sustaining an Academic Career in Biology presented by Rhiley K. Hodges

From Biology to Environmental Sciences, Rhiley K. Hodges will discuss her academic career in STEM and how she decided on her major, what it takes to be in biology, and the track she is now on. Sustaining a career in STEM is about having an open mind and locking in on your passions; in Rhiley’s case, she has found a passion in environmental sustainability. She’ll be discussing the current trends, efforts, and why it’s important to advocate sustainability in today’s society.



Previous Engineering Chats

Sustaining our Natural World: Careers in Environmental Science and Environmental Engineering presented by Jackie Sullivan

Join Jackie Sullivan, UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Adjunct Instructor, for an interactive session where students can learn about the similarities and differences of these two career options related to their primary focus, academic course requirements/rigor, real-world project examples, and research/employment opportunities!


Building Neuroprosthetic Bionic Arms presented by Dr. Albert Manero

For many children with limb difference, it can be very difficult to receive a bionic arm. At Limbitless, we blend art and engineering to build custom bionic arms inspired by superheroes, that activate when you “flex” your muscles. Join Dr. Manero, Director of Limbitless Solutions at UCF, to learn more about the engineering behind building bionic arms!


Crack, Buzz, and Plop: The Coupled Mechanics of Jetting Citrus, Flying Insects, and Splashing Projectiles presented by Dr. Andrew Dickerson

Natural systems often inspire new methods to control fluids, or conversely, use fluids to control systems. Three fluid mechanic systems that might come to mind include: the jetting of microdroplets when peeling an orange, the droplet ejection off of a mosquito wing, and the splash alteration by compliant free-surface solids. These phenomena at the interface of biology and fluid mechanics can provide engineers with useful, inspired information for future designs. Join Assistant Professor Dr. Dickerson for a session that is sure to make you view fluids in a way you never have before!


Electroencephalography (EEG): A Messy but Alluring Tool to Uncover Brain Processes During Human Locomotion presented by Dr. Helen Huang

For ~100 years now, people have been recording the electrical signals on the scalp, also known as electroencephalography or EEG, to try to understand how our brain works and to try to read our minds. Despite its allure, EEG is literally quite “messy” and also easily contaminated by “noise,” which masks the brain signals. In this talk, Dr. Huang will discuss her research advancing EEG technologies to help separate the “noise” from the brain signals in EEG and what her team has learned so far about the brain processes that help people move and walk.


Capturing Mechanical and Material Response under Extreme Aerospace Environments presented by Dr. Seetha Raghavan

Air and space vehicles are exposed to some of the most extreme environments with drastically changing temperatures, high loads and particle impact. Structural integrity for applications in propulsion, hypersonics and space can be achieved by first capturing in-situ mechanical response of materials under replicated extreme environments to understand stress and damage mechanisms. The findings from such unique measurements serve to guide the design of new and tailored material systems that can withstand these harsh conditions. Finally, new concepts in incorporating “materials as sensors” have been developed to monitor degradation as extended lifetimes and reusability become increasingly significant to meet evolving and challenging aerospace needs. Join Dr. Seetha Raghavan for this interactive session to discuss the latest in aerospace engineering!


Virtual and Augmented Reality – Don’t kick my dog—real or virtual! presented by Dr. Gregory Welch

What would a Virtual Chat Series be without some Virtual Reality? Prof. Welch will provide a brief introduction to the concepts and realizations of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, and one example of how virtual experiences can have real effects on real humans. No real animals were harmed in this research or the preparation of the presentation.


An Outlook into Computer Engineering: A Student’s Perspective presented by Gustavo Diaz Galeas

Have you ever wondered how computers work? How about working with, or even help develop, cutting-edge technology that helps advance the Information Age? Are you interested in a career that involves all that? Join recent computer engineering graduate and former STEM Ambassador Gustavo Diaz Galeas as he shares his experiences as an undergraduate student in the field and talks about what it takes to become one!


Peering into NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope presented by Jeanne Davis

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. An infrared telescope, Webb will have a massive 6.5-meter primary mirror as well as a tennis-court sized sunshield that will protect it from the infrared radiation of the Sun, Earth, and Moon. Jeanne Davis, Associate Director for Astrophysics at NASA Headquarters, will present about the science and engineering behind Webb. Ms. Davis has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Molecular Biology and a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Systems, both from the University of Central Florida. For more on Webb, please see