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April 2013 Newsletter

Information Technology Analytics Group

A gathering of local information technology industry leaders, government representatives, researchers, and faculty

The Haas Center of the University of West Florida and Life Sciences South Florida have teamed up again, this time to convene faculty and industry leaders in the field of information technology (IT). On March 29, a group of 21 individuals including FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan Carlos Zapata, Jayne Burgess and Andy Perez from Workforce Florida, CIO of the City of Coral Gables Gee Chow, and Christopher “Rod” Lewis from the Haas Center came together to discuss the future of education, workforce training and the IT industry in South Florida.

Business representatives included: DATACORP, Trend Group, Optimum7, Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd., Empower IT, and IBM Corporation. Administrators and researchers from FIU, Florida Atlantic University, and Nova Southeastern University, along with members of the Life Sciences South Florida executive committee, were also present to share their viewpoints from the education perspective.

The conversation centered on how educators could improve the quality of workforce talent graduating from local institutions, based on feedback from local businesses about the kinds of IT personnel they need. According to attendees, companies currently working closely with educational institutions are having great success with their partnerships. It was noted that internships and mentorships play a key role in ensuring graduates are well-prepared for high-tech careers.

The idea that South Florida needs to take ownership of the IT cluster and create a “Center of Excellence” for IT in the Miami-Dade area was also discussed at length, along with the impact that such a milestone could have on the region.

A question that came up several times was, “How do you grow an IT cluster without talented IT professionals, and how do you attract talented IT professionals without an existing IT cluster?” The group agreed that having established companies support new entrepreneurs in the Miami-Dade area may be the answer. The goal is to encourage IT professionals to stay in the area to take part in a dynamic, developing IT community, characterized by new opportunities and partnerships.

"We were very encouraged by the response we received from IT industry leaders and others in the local business community,'' said Dr. Irma Becerra-Fernandez, interim Vice President for Engagement. “This kind of dialogue is critical to ensuring that our students are entering the workforce with the skills they need for the kind of high-tech careers our local IT industry demands. We look forward to continued collaboration with this group of key partners." Information collected during the IT industry cluster will be compiled into a report for Workforce Florida that will be used to guide future state workforce policy decisions.

First Annual Life Sciences South Florida STEM Undergraduate Research Symposium

Undergraduates from eight institutions share their passion for STEM and present some of the most innovative research in the region

More than 60 students from eight universities took part in Life Sciences South Florida’s First Annual STEM Undergraduate Research Symposium at Miami Dade North Campus on March 16. The purpose of the event was to celebrate the talent of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) students in the South Florida region.

Students were selected to showcase their research with either a poster or an oral presentation. In addition, all students had the opportunity to share their research with peers, university administrators, and industry representatives who attended the event.

“It was a great opportunity to get exposure for your research,’’ said Ruslan Garcia, an FIU senior in biological sciences whose research on melanoma received first prize in the oral presentation category.

Garcia analyzed tumors in mice to determine whether the presence of certain types of proteins led to increased metastasizing of cancerous cells to the lungs, brain and lymph nodes. The goal was to gain insight into how human tumors will behave in similar situations.

“Ultimately, developing specific drugs to target these proteins could result in safer treatment for patients,’’ said Garcia, who conducted his research with FIU’s Dr. Lidia Kos and doctoral student Nikeisha Chin.

One of the symposium goals was to enable students to communicate with each other about their passion for STEM areas, as well as encourage them to communicate with administrators and industry leaders who could provide them with insight about STEM-related careers.

Student researchers from Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Indian River State College, Miami Dade College, Nova Southeastern University, Palm Beach State College and University of Miami participated.

There were two categories: oral presentation and poster presentation. Although all students received a token of appreciation for their commitment to research, first, second and third place poster presentation winners, as well as second and third place oral presentation winners, received mini-iPads. The first place winner for the oral presentation category won an iPad. The prizes were meant to encourage students to continue their work in STEM fields and facilitate their ability to conduct research from virtually anywhere.

The winners for oral presentations were: 1st place, Ruslan Garcia (FIU) and tie for 2nd place between Michael Butts (PBSC) and Alex Perez (FIU). Poster presentation winners were: 1st place, Danielle Howard (FAU), 2nd place Samantha Amat (FAU), and 3rd place Katherine Leon (MDC).

One of the most popular features of the symposium was the featured speaker, Dr. Edith Widder, a specialist in bioluminescence and co-founder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA). As part of the team who filmed the giant squid (Architeuthis) in its natural habitat for the first time, her talk was inspirational to students passionate about science.

“It was one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen,’’ Garcia said.

To learn more about Dr. Widder and ORCA please visit:

The event’s success would not have been possible without the commitment and collaborative work of the Life Sciences South Florida program committee leader, Dr. Heather Belmont, and committee members: Jaime Tartar, Charles Bigger, Donna Chamely-Wiik, Jenesis Ramirez, Alexandra Gorgevska, Becky Mercer, Casey Lunceford, Anthony Iacono, Sean Kelly, Ed Pratt, Kathy Rodriguez, and Michael Gaines. 

The support of Miami Dade College as the host, the event sponsors, and judges were also greatly appreciated and critical to the symposium’s success. Sponsors included: FIU College of Engineering and Computing, FIU Undergraduate Education, FGCU Division of Academic Affairs, FIU Division of Research, FAU, NSU, PBSC, MDC Office of the Provost, and IRSC. Judges were: Donna Chamel-Wiik, Jaime Tartar, Alfred Leon, Kyle Bartow, David Binninger, Sean Kelly, Tom D’Elia, Jaap Donath, Robert Lowery, Howard Prentice, Amy Starosciak, Patchara Pongam, Aurelien Tartar, Anil Thota, David Willoughby, Kimberly Jackson, Charles Bigger, Carlos Ruiz, Emily Schmitt, Becky Ann Mercer, Valentine Negrouk, Sherry Bowen, Adrienne Cottrell-Yongye, John Barimo, Loretta Adoghe , Ceylan Asli Oner, Evelyn Frazier, George Gabb, Pablo Sacasa, Robert Smith, John Stegar, Alexandra Gorgevska, Irma Becerra-Fernandez, Richard Patton, Caridad Castro, Robert Lowery, Hien Nguyen, Heather Belmont.

Regional Internships Initiatives

Small steps on the way to success

In early April, executive members of LSSF engaged in a conversation with representatives from local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations to connect the perspectives of higher education administrators and local businesses concerning student internships.

Issues of funding, liability, and establishing the right fit between student intern and employer were cited as being among the top reasons business do not hire student interns. Despite these established challenges the group agreed that when the match is right between intern and business, the relationship is positive and fruitful for both the intern and the business.

The creation of a survey to gauge local business’ interest levels and experiences with internships is underway. Upon completion, the final survey will be distributed to a subgroup of large and small local businesses by the chambers of commerce and economic development organizations on board, which include: Florida International University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Nova Southeastern University, Broward College, Palm Beach State College, Indian River Chamber of Commerce, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, and Nursing Consortium of South Florida, the Beacon Council, Research Park at FAU, and Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.

February Webinar 2.19.13

Webinar Title: The Emergence of Flow Cytometry as a Routine Diagnostic Testing Technology – Right Here in Our Own Back Yard!

Presenter: Dr. Mike Reed, Director of Global Assay and Applications Development for Beckman Coulter, Inc.

To view the full presentation, click here.

April Webinar 4.16.13 @ 12:30pm 

Webinar Title: Best Practices in Medical Surplus Recovery

Presenter: Meridith Rentz, CEO & President of MedShare

To attend the webinar log in “as guest” via:

Webinars will proceed through July 16, 2013

Upcoming webinar dates and presenters:

  • May 21: Rose Satz, CEO of Bio-Nucleonics, Inc.
  • June 18: J. Michael Gregson of Life Science Technology HUB