Get to know the ABE SURF ’17 students!


SURF (summer undergraduate research fellowship) is hosted by the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at UF and provides an opportunity for potential PhD students to participate in a 10 week research experience with a premier faculty adviser and a senior Ph.D. student mentor.

This summer, ABE has been hosting two undergraduate SURF students: Kendrick Hardaway (University of Arkansas) and Samantha Winther (Marquette University). Both are being mentored in ABE by our graduate students Ratna Suthar and Tori Morgan, respectively. Comments from an interview are shared below and offer some insight into the SURF students’ summer experiences.

How did you find out about the SURF program?

Samantha and Kendrick: Applied through a program called ENGINE at my home institution and UF reached out and invited me to Fall Preview when I was able to visit my departments of interest, meet potential faculty and interact with the PhD student mentors.

How did you choose your faculty mentor and what is your research project?

Samantha: Since my background is in Biomedical Engineering, my interests aligned more with Dr. McLamore’s research on biosensors. I’m working on optimizing the parameters of chitosin-based nanosensors for lysteria.

Kendrick: My honors thesis work at UArk BAE is on biosolids as a soil amendment for crops, so I am familiar with the applications of biochar as a water purifier, carbon sequesterer and soil amendment. In Dr. Gao’s lab I get to work on characterizing types of hydrochar and their pollutant adsorption capacity.

How will SURF enable your future goals?

Samantha: SURF was my first research experience and it allowed me to see that I want to stay on the research side whether it’s in academia or industry.

I definitely hope to earn a PhD; my two main areas of interest are biomedical engineering like drug therapy and public health like accessible medical technology.

The connections that I made at UF talking to current students and faculty in other departments about the graduate application process made my experience here valuable.

Kendrick: SURF allowed me to connect with other faculty at UF that would enable me to pursue future studies in sustainable systems. Talking to these researchers gave me a broader view of systems in general, like how we grow food and what happens to byproducts.

My goal is to get a PhD and go into consulting to bridge the gap between the technologies we have and the policies made for the optimal use of these technologies. Eventually I’d like to work internationally, maybe even on economic/social affairs and humanitarian efforts.

Both of you want to do a PhD, how do you think this program has educated you about the graduate student life?

Kendrick: My PhD mentor and lab mentor gave me a good idea of what graduate life was like. I was able to see their daily life first hand and they allowed me to ask questions.

Samantha: Immersion. In the lab, I sit between two grad students and I get to see their daily life – and the traveling they do for research and conferences.

Most memorable time in the Gainesville?

Kendrick: Connecting with fellow SURF students from other states, exploring Gainesville, eating ice pops from the Hyppo, and getting to explore the local salsa scene.

The weekend trips with the SURF cohort and mentors to Rainbow Springs, Lake Wauburg and Kennedy Space Center.

Samantha: I saw the ocean for the first time when our cohort took a trip to St Augustine!

Any thoughts on our ABE department at UF?

Kendrick: Overall the department is very laid back and has a very family-like atmosphere.

What would you say to other students thinking about SURF?

Samantha: Just do it! It’s 10 weeks. It’s a great experience that’s very valuable even if it’s not your exact area of work. Take the opportunity to experience a different university than your undergrad.

Kendrick: I’ve been privileged to spend summers in other countries studying abroad, and coaching basketball but SURF was one of the best summer decisions I’ve made because of the great experience and adventure. UF was already on my short list of grad schools, so when I got this offer, it made total sense to accept it.

Kendrick Hardaway’s Research Video


Video Recap: Annual ABE Poster Symposium

The UF ABE Poster Symposium is an annual event designed to give students the opportunity to practice their scientific communication skills. The event also provides an opportunity to highlight the many exciting and diverse research projects taking place in Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

2017 Winners:
1st Place –  Geraldine Klarenberg (advisor: Dr. Muñoz-Carpena)
2nd Place – 3 way tie!

Joe Sagues (advisor: Dr. Tong)
Christopher Hwang (advisor: Dr. Correll)
Eduardo Gelcer (advisor: Dr. Fraisse)
1st Year Graduate – Kathleen Vasquez (advisor: Dr. Muñoz-Carpena)

1st Place – John Nemenyi and Zhonglin Lai (advisor: Dr. Tong)

Want to check out the winning posters? Visit:

ABE professor recognized for climate change research

UF ABE professor Senthold Asseng was published in the journal Nature Climate Change for his researching examining how temperature affects the growth of wheat crops.

Asseng, known for his modeling expertise, led a team of nearly 50 scientists from around the world in using simulations and statistical methods to estimate how rising temperatures will impact global crop production.

Asseng said that increased temperatures can prevent wheat, and other crops such as fruits and vegetables, from producing high yields. With climate change rising temperatures around the world, and the global population increasing to an estimated 9 billion by 2050, research on how temperature affects global crop growth is more important than ever.

Asseng said that accurate predictions of the true effects of climate change must consider models of climate, crop growth, and economic impacts.

This study, which was conducted as part of AgMIP – the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, marks the first time different temperature-impact predictions have been compared globally. Asseng said that the findings will allow himself and other scientists around the world to have confidence in the accuracy of their predictions going forward.

More information on Asseng’s findings can be found here:

UF ABE researchers develop new method for testing low-concentrations of chemicals

Researchers from the UF Agricultural and Biological Engineering department have discovered a better way to assess the impacts of mixtures of man-made chemicals on water bodies and their ecosystems.

The study’s lead authors, Rafael Muñoz-Carpena and Ismael Rodea-Palomares, along with colleagues in Spain, found a way to detect how low doses of pharmaceuticals and personal care products, known as PPCPs, affect aquatic life.

Low concentrations of these chemicals are widely released into freshwater bodies all over the world. Although they are not toxic individually, they collect and dilute over long periods of time in waters downstream from wastewater plans and sewage release points. These combinations of chemicals eventually make their way in low concentrations into other freshwater subsidiaries, including drinking water and soil.

While previous studies have examined PPCPs individually in high concentrations, Muñoz-Carpena and his team wanted to see how these mixtures of chemicals in low-concentrations realistically impact aquatic ecosystems.

Scientists introduced low-concentrations mixtures of common PPCPs, including caffeine, antibiotics, analgesics, psychiatric drugs, into a lab-created freshwater environment. Using blue algae that had been engineered to produce light, the team examined how different combinations of chemicals affected the algae’s metabolism, represented by its ability to emit light.

Muñoz-Carpena and his team found that a number of the PPCPs in the mixtures, particularly antibiotics and other common medicines, affected the algae’s growth, assimilation of nutrients, photosynthesis and reproduction.

This study not only shows the harmful effects of low-doses of PPCPs in complex mixtures, but also provides other scientists with an accurate method of testing how emerging chemicals impact aquatic life, something the field was lacking.

Muñoz-Carpena said the success of this new method has created many opportunities for other biological scientists.

The work was published in the prestigious Science Advances (AAAS) journal. More information on this study can be found here: