This 12 months’s Attain for the Stars honorees are united by their ardour to assist folks and positively change the world. By selling constructive healthcare and serving to enhance how we reply to survivors of violence to enriching the human expertise by area exploration, superior computing and cultural understanding, the honorees are serving to unleash the potential of individuals and concepts.
The Attain for the Stars award acknowledges early-career professionals with extremely profitable analysis and artistic exercise with a nationwide or worldwide affect. It’s second solely to the Pegasus Professor award as UCF’s highest college honor. This 12 months’s awardees will likely be acknowledged as a part of the Founders’ Day School Honors Celebration on Wednesday, April 5, from 3 p.m. to five p.m. within the Pegasus Ballroom of the Pupil Union.
Meet the 2023 Attain for the Stars honorees:
- Ph.D. in social work from the College of Maryland Baltimore
Bethany Backes is enhancing how we reply to survivors of violence.
She does this by her analysis into home, sexual and stalking violence. Her aim is to create and enhance packages, providers and responses that forestall violence from taking place once more and supply help for people and households to fulfill their short- and long-term wants.
“I need to perceive how, why and when survivors search assist from justice, social service and community-based companies and if these companies are assembly the wants of survivors,” Backes says.
“Nobody is proof against violence, but we ought to be doing all the things in our energy to stop it from occurring and recurring,” she says.
Greater than 40% of girls and over 20% of males have skilled interpersonal violence all through their lifetime, in keeping with the Facilities for Illness Management. The affect of this violence is felt throughout people, households, communities, the nation and the world as a result of psychological and bodily hurt it causes in addition to its long-term social and financial penalties.
“I need to give voice to survivors and to people who work with them in an effort to create and maintain change,” she says. “Additionally, it is crucial that this work drives to the bigger aim of decreasing violence and mitigates the detrimental impacts of victimization. Nonetheless, that can’t happen with out main systemic adjustments throughout our social and familial ecologies.”
Her affect on the success and well-being of survivors of interpersonal violence is already having widespread results because of the quite a few tasks she is main.
She is principal investigator of the U.S. Division of Justice, Workplace on Violence In opposition to Girls-funded undertaking, Secure Transitions, which examines the intersection of housing, security and homelessness amongst survivors of home violence throughout the nation.
“We have now a tremendous group of colleagues and group companions and are speaking with survivors to make sure the undertaking facilities these experiences,” she says. “We hope it’s going to tremendously affect coverage and supply a framework for communities in constructing and sustaining protected housing packages that meet the wants of survivors.”
She’s additionally a part of an ongoing interdisciplinary undertaking funded by the Elizabeth Morse Genius Basis to develop a screener to be used in scholar well being providers.
The undertaking has introduced collectively college, scholar well being providers and sufferer providers, and they’re working alongside college students and different stakeholders to develop and validate a set of screening objects which can be reflective of UCF’s scholar physique to determine experiences of interpersonal violence.
“Our focus is on early intervention and a part of this course of is educating college students on interpersonal violence, offering them with a number of avenues to get help and giving them autonomy to make the choice that’s greatest for them,” she says. “As this undertaking continues, we plan to copy it at different school campuses.”
To help college students in her discipline, she additionally labored collaboratively with postdoctoral students to develop a directed analysis course particularly on gender-based violence the place undergraduate college students are uncovered to analysis on these subjects whereas additionally studying about self-care and vicarious trauma.
For her assist guaranteeing the success of postdoctoral researchers, she’s obtained UCF’s early profession Postdoctoral Mentorship Award.
“That is so significant to me,” Backes says. “It’s a privilege to work alongside these vibrant and devoted postdocs and be part of their journey.”
She says the main motive she selected to work at UCF is due to the Violence In opposition to Girls Cluster.
“To be at a college that particularly helps this space of analysis shouldn’t be that frequent,” she says. “Having the ability to work in a collaborative atmosphere with others finding out comparable and overlapping areas can solely improve our affect on this space. Plus, the scholars are unimaginable and really all in favour of conducting analysis alongside the cluster college and we’re grateful for the chance to mentor these vibrant, devoted scholar researchers.”
Kerri Donaldson Hanna
As a planetary geologist, Kerri Donaldson Hanna will get an inside have a look at outer area. Her work permits her to look at simulated and precise samples of the moon and asteroids, both within the type of meteorites or from these collected by the Apollo astronauts, and evaluate them to observations from telescopes and spacecraft.
The work informs our understanding of the formation of the moon and different small our bodies, which gives clues into how the Earth and the remainder of the photo voltaic system advanced into what we all know at this time.
Her experience has led to her becoming a member of excessive profile NASA missions like Lunar Trailblazer, which is able to launch in Fall 2023, and dealing on their Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS) undertaking, which goes to the moon’s south pole in late 2026.
Together with UCF planetary scientist Adrienne Dove, Donaldson Hanna is main the $35 million NASA Lunar-VISE mission to discover the moon’s volcanic Gruithuisen domes. The mission, scheduled to launch in mid-2026, will search the volcanoes for assets that may very well be used for our long-term exploration of the moon and area.
And her work shouldn’t be solely serving to to positively affect our information of the photo voltaic system, she’s additionally serving to to unleash the potential of Knights right here at UCF.
“One of many analysis accomplishments I’m most happy with at UCF is constructing a very gifted group of undergraduate and graduate college students in addition to postdoctoral researchers to check the moon, Mercury and asteroids,” she says. “Having an amazing analysis group makes science much more enjoyable and rewarding.”
The potential to collaborate with main researchers in addition to college students enthusiastic about science is without doubt one of the primary causes she selected to work at UCF.
“I used to be very excited to affix UCF — America’s House College — due to the improbable group of school and scientists doing planetary and area science,” she says. “It’s a nice atmosphere to collaborate and develop my areas of analysis, and accessing such sensible and gifted undergraduate and graduate college students to recruit to do analysis with me was additionally actually interesting.”
She says the final word aim for her analysis can be to be part of a mission with people or robots that may pattern rocks from the far aspect of the moon the place there’s plenty of pure anorthosite after which examine these samples within the lab.
“I’ve studied anorthosites, that are rocks composed primarily of the mineral plagioclase, for a lot of my profession, so getting samples from an space of the moon that we have now but to pattern to reply questions concerning the formation and evolution of the moon can be improbable,” she says.
Synthetic intelligence is the inspiration of future computing, however it may be extremely delicate to even the smallest disturbances, which might result in catastrophically poor efficiency.
That’s why pc scientist Yanjie Fu focuses his analysis on creating strong machine intelligence that may stand up to disruptions, comparable to imperfect or advanced information.
“AI programs, in contrast to people, are brittle, not strong, and infrequently wrestle when confronted with novel conditions,” Fu says. “Subsequently, in a real-world, open, dynamic and unsure atmosphere, it’s important to develop strong AI programs.”
Fu is fixing the issue by constructing instruments to deal with robustness points from framework, algorithmic, information and computing elements.
He says the final word aim for his analysis is to develop sturdy and generic System 1 (illustration and projection) and System 2 (reasoning and resolution) intelligences, so machines are outfitted with human-like talents.
His affect has prolonged to each his discipline and his college students. His two graduated doctoral college students have joined academia as tenure-track college members, and he has obtained the U.S. Nationwide Science Basis CAREER award, in addition to greatest paper awards in main conferences in his discipline.
He mentioned the skills of AI are altering, and it’s an thrilling discipline for innovation and discovery.
“Prior to now, AI strategies have been used to deal with particular duties,” he says. “The latest advances of ChatGPT present that it’s promising to develop sturdy, generic and human-like clever programs to carry out duties that people accomplish. That is an thrilling course.”
Fu says he selected to work at UCF as a result of it’s a dynamic, vibrant and research-intensive college.
“UCF is extremely regarded in engineering and pc science training and analysis,” he says. “On the pc science division, the School of Engineering and Laptop Science, and at UCF, I’ve nice alternatives to work with world-class researchers and mannequin college members, so I can observe, work together with, imitate and study from my colleagues, and furthermore, enhance myself.”
Haidar Khezri makes use of language educating, translation, literary criticism, and minority and refugee research to assist college students, students and the broader public perceive the complexities of the Center East.
As a scholar of languages and literatures, he’s printed a number of books, translations of dozens of poems and journal articles and labored on main sponsored tasks which were mentioned in educational circles and featured in nationwide and worldwide media, such because the Monetary Instances, the Jewish Telegraphic Company, La Tribune, Kurdistan 24, Reuters and The Washington Publish.
He’s additionally written for media retailers, comparable to The Dialog and openDemocracy, and he has been interviewed about minority and human rights by numerous media retailers, comparable to Voice of America.
“The Center East is the house of necessary spiritual and cultural traditions, in addition to one of the vital necessary geopolitical areas of our modern world,” Khezri says. “But, its numerous minority languages and cultures stay largely obscured. That is the world wherein I’m contributing on the forefront of producing information.”
His efforts to counterpoint the human expertise have prolonged into UCF lecture rooms and past by designing and creating the nation’s first Kurdish curriculum for North American universities, making UCF one among solely two universities within the nation to usually supply Kurdish language programs. Moreover, he led the design of the Kurdish curriculum for Metro Nashville Public Faculties and Nashville State Group School, enabling Kurdish to be included for the primary time within the packages of any excessive faculties and group schools within the U.S. The U.S. Division of State has listed the Kurdish language as one that’s important to the U.S.’s nationwide safety, prosperity and constructive engagement with the world.
He says he’s proud to replicate on how his scholarly work is setting the usual in key areas of language-teaching, cross-cultural understanding and worldwide literary trade.
“My college students and readers achieve a richer understanding and appreciation for the Center East,” Khezri says. “This in the end promotes understanding, tolerance and peace.”
One in all his most up-to-date analysis tasks examines attitudes amongst Syrian refugees in Germany, which incorporates a whole lot of in depth interviews performed in three waves from 2017 to 2022. The examine covers essential subjects of our time, he says, together with antisemitism, migrant integration, LGBTQ+, ladies, minority rights and conspiracy theories.
“Within the final decade, social sciences in addition to different educational disciplines have witnessed an elevated curiosity in minorities, refugees and compelled displacement as a topic of inquiry,” Khezri says. “I’m delicate to and all in favour of finding out totally different elements of one of many greatest refugee crises in our world at this time to discover methods wherein we, as world students and residents, can contribute to assuaging this disaster.”
He says he selected to work at UCF due to the alternatives it provides to unleash the potential of each particular person.
“UCF is a younger, vibrant college, that’s open to artistic and large concepts,” he says. “At UCF, I hope to ascertain a middle for minority and human rights and world justice.”
- Assistant professor within the School of Drugs
- Ph.D. in well being habits from the College of Florida
LGBTQ+ youth display well being disparities — particularly associated to psychological well being outcomes and receipt of high-quality, affirming healthcare — in comparison with their heterosexual and cisgender friends. For instance, LGBTQ+ youth display 4 occasions larger threat of suicide than their friends.
It’s for that reason that Lindsay Taliaferro says she feels enthusiastic about her work researching elements that defend in opposition to suicidality and facilitate receipt of high-quality, affirming healthcare for LGBTQ+ younger folks.
She conducts strengths-based — relatively than deficits-based analysis — that examines results of modifiable protecting elements throughout particular person, relationship, group, and societal ranges, that may assist eradicate well being disparities and obtain well being fairness amongst LGBTQ youth.
This contains inspecting structural elements — comparable to state nondiscrimination legal guidelines, LGBTQ supportive faculty and regional climates and entry to affirming healthcare — and their impact on healthcare utilization and well being outcomes, significantly suicidal ideation and habits, amongst LGBTQ+ younger folks.
“Finally, I hope to positively affect the well being and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth populations by strengthening supportive relationship, group and structural-level elements,” she says.
She’s reaching this aim by her analysis, which has been funded by the Nationwide Institutes of Well being and the American Basis for Suicide Prevention.
She’s additionally obtained an NIH Sexual and Gender Minority Early-Stage Investigator Award, a UCF Girls of Distinction award, and a UCF School of Drugs Early Profession Investigator Award for Achievement in Analysis.
Since she conducts interdisciplinary analysis that entails a group science-type of method, she says her success displays the work of nice interdisciplinary groups.
“I really feel privileged to work with great collaborators for whom I really feel very grateful,” she says.
Taliaferro selected to work at UCF as a result of she appreciated the analysis help and collaborations the college afforded her.
“School, employees and directors within the School of Drugs are completely wonderful,” she says. “And my colleagues and collaborators from throughout totally different departments at UCF have at all times proven me kindness, generosity and unwavering help.”