SCF Student Megan Orlando Awarded Prestigious NSF Research Opportunity at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

(Bradenton, Fla., April 1, 2015) — State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) A.S. in Biotechnology student Megan Orlando has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates within the Marine Immunology Program at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Honored that she was selected for the competitive research opportunity that is coveted by the area’s undergraduate students interested in attending graduate school, Orlando credits her SCF professors for her success and helping her find her passion for science.

“Most people may say that their parents are the most influential people in their lives, but for me, it’s Dr. Matt Thomas, my first college science professor, who taught me all that I know,” Orlando said. “He really challenges me to go through ‘mental gymnastics’ to find the right answer. His technique of teaching requires all of us as students to think, which is an important tool because we can apply it to other classes and to life.”

Before coming to SCF,Orlando had no direction for her career. She had waited a year after high school to enter college and had to start with remedial mathematics and English courses at SCF. When she began taking general education courses, she realized she was fascinated with science and was encouraged by Thomas, SCF’s Biotechnology Program director, to take biotechnology courses.

Orlando has shared her passion for science with high school students in Manatee and Sarasota counties as an ambassador for the SCF Biotechnology Alliance for Suncoast Biotechnology Educators (BASBE) Program. The program was developed to enhance local high school science education programs and prepare students who are interested in pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields for college courses.

She also worked as a student assistant in SCF’s natural science department and volunteered at BioFlorida and Roskamp Institute, where she is working a vision research program and studying mild traumatic brain injury in mouse models.

After graduating in May 2015 with Associate in Arts and A.S. in Biotechnology degrees, she will spend 10 weeks at Mote Marine Laboratory working closely with Mote scientists to conduct meaningful research.She also will continue at SCF to complete pre-requisite trigonometry and calculus courses for her bachelor’s degree.

For Orlando, it will be difficult to leave SCF, where her lab partners have become her best friends and her professors have served as her mentors.

“I love SCF because I’ve met people here who have changed my life. It has been more of a home to me than anywhere I've ever lived. Everyone in the Natural Sciences Department treats me like family, and they are all interested in making sure their students succeed even if it means setting aside their own personal time to make that happen,” she said.

She plans to earn a Ph.D. in biotechnology or neuroscience with the goal of becoming a neuroscience researcher to help find a cure for brain injuries or debilitating diseases of the mind.

Megan Orlando


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