Students and faculty continue research amid COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to present challenges, but University of West Florida students and faculty refuse to let the pandemic stop them from their potentially groundbreaking research.

UWF student Lali Gutierrez conducting research

Earlier this month, 85 students and 47 faculty mentors participated virtually in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program 2020 Celebration Week. This came on the heels of students and faculty successfully adapting to a virtual format in April for the UWF Student Scholars Symposium and Faculty Research Showcase.

“It has been a summer program like no other, but as usual, UWF students and faculty have risen to the occasion and taken on the challenge of working on their research projects remotely,” said Dr. Allison Schwartz, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “UWF is unique because many institutions cancelled their summer research programs and so SURP Celebration Week was a great way to highlight our student-centered focus and our students’ and faculty’s ability to keep going despite the challenges.”

Senior criminal justice major Kayla Reid examined factors that could impact successful completion of Pathways for Change Men’s Residential Treatment program. Pathways for Change is a therapeutic community in Pensacola that offers an alternative to traditional incarceration for non-violent offenders to combat substance abuse. Dr. Nicole Niebuhr served as her faculty mentor and adjunct lecturer Brittany Austin provided the client data.

“The program is performing all components of a standard therapeutic community based on the scholarly articles I researched,” Reid said. “Findings from the analysis found that variables such as prior homelessness and educational level were consistent with the articles as well. Adapting to a virtual research project was fortunately smooth, as technology such as Zoom allowed for communication between researchers and agency staff.”

Madison Williams, a senior earth and environmental science major, teamed with Dr. Phillip Schmutz to examine the relationship between beach morphology and loggerhead sea turtle nesting sites. Williams used a geographic information system to map hot nesting sites for loggerhead sea turtles.

Sophomore electrical engineering major Quinton Godwin researched how to build a model to forecast wind power generation. Godwin discovered that using a combination of forecasting models, Wavelet Signal Denoiser and Grey World Optimization, produces accurate results. Dr. Bhuvaneswari Ramachandran served as his faculty mentor for the research project.

Junior nursing major Meredith Daniels paired with Dr. Jill van der Like to conduct research on interventions to limit imposter phenomenon in nursing students. Imposter phenomenon for nurses is when they feel ill-equipped to handle the job. Daniels found that nursing students often lack the confidence to be effective in the profession, leading to mental health issues including anxiety, depression, over/underachieving, perfectionism and neuroticism. Her research states that methods to prevent imposter phenomenon are awareness, workshops, practice and self-awareness.

Case Jackson, a junior exercise science major, researched the effects of COVID-19 on the fitness routines of college students and faculty. Jackson discovered that the number of people exercising outside has remained relatively stable during the pandemic. Laura Adlof, a professor in the Department of Movement Sciences and Health, mentored Jackson on his research project.

For more information on UWF undergraduate research, visit