Science & Technology

UWF students perform sponsored research in chemistry, biology

By Josh Newby, University Communications

Students at the University of West Florida are currently in the midst of researching plants that may contain anti-tumor and anti-diabetic properties, causes of climate change and a multitiude of other biological and chemical substances. These findings may in turn contribute to future revelations about our world and enhance the region’s and people’s wellbeing.

Since 2004, biology and chemistry students at UWF have spent their summers performing advanced scientific research, contributing discoveries to the community and honing their future career skills.

The program, sponsored by Merck Pharmaceuticals, gives students a real-world research experience under the guidance of advisors from the chemistry and biology departments. Students are compensated for their work and typically spend 25 to 30 hours a week on their projects.

“The students are paid to do research,” said Pam Vaughan, an assistant professor in chemistry. “They don’t have to wait tables or tend bars. They get valuable experience out of it, which gives them a tremendous competitive edge in the workplace.”

At the end of each research project, the students submit a report of their findings to Merck Pharmaceuticals. Renewal of funding from Merck is contingent on the program’s success, as well as the students’ presentation of findings. Vaughan believes this gives them an exhaustive research experience, from performing experiments, becoming better acclimated with instruments and software and documenting their findings.

“I have learned so much from this experience not only in regard to my research, but also in tying techniques learned in each chemistry course to one big experiment,” said Janae Baptiste, a junior majoring in biochemistry. “The research that I conduct involves the use of High Performance Liquid Chromatography analysis and, with each experiment, I also learn about the use of instruments and software.”

Students in the program have parlayed the success of the program into their future careers as well. Many have gone on to work in national labs or continue their education in prestigious graduate programs across the country. Two students have even published research in peer-evaluated journals.

For more information on the program, visit