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UCF students to lobby, present research during Day at the Capitol

By Eric Quitugua
On March 16, 2014

The Student Government Association is taking a road trip to the Capitol, and they’re bringing student advocates with them.

At this year’s annual Day at the Capitol on March 19, 100 students will get the chance to bring issues from UCF to the state legislature and lobby issues that affect the university.

“Students should know that them taking the day off to advocate for their interests is a really big deal, even if they don’t feel like that one day is going to make such a difference,” said Cynthia Florentino, a political science senior who serves as the SGA director of governmental affairs. “It does – especially when one person comes, two people come, a hundred people come from one university to support their policy agenda and to advocate.”

On this day, the annual Day at the Capitol, SGA will push for prioritizing higher education in the state budget. Along with Aim Higher Florida, a coalition of student leaders and universities, SGA will encourage the Florida State Legislature to invest $118 million into the State University System. According to the SGA 2014 legislative agenda, the funding may lead to a freeze on tuition increases for the 2013-14 school year.

Also on the agenda is lobbying for Senate Bill 84. This bill seeks to waive a required 12-month waiting time to establish residency for military veterans in Florida. It also seeks to waive out-of-state fees they face.

Because the Post-9/11 GI Bill only covers the highest in-state undergraduate tuition, a nonresident veteran currently would have to pay the difference between resident and nonresident fees.

SGA will also show support for Senate Bill S.815. It aims to prohibit certain entities, such as employers and employer agencies, from discriminating employees based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. By lobbying for the bill, SGA hopes to prevent employment discrimination for all students.

This trip will also mark the first UCF Posters at the Capitol. Eleven undergraduate students from different majors will present their research and showcase the necessity of funding for their work.

One such student is senior mechanical engineering student Samuel Yacinthe.

During the summer of 2013, Yacinthe took part in the EcoCAR 2 competition with Ohio State University. The focus of the competition was taking a Chevrolet Malibu, donated to the university by General Motors, and prioritizing ways to maximize energy efficiency and minimize vehicle emissions based on a given amount of resources.

“The parameters we looked at specifically were weight, which is huge; the load, which deals with auxiliary load: all the power that comes from the AC, radio, and things like that; drag, the aerodynamics of the vehicle; and we also looked at the rolling resistance of the tires,” he said.

Yacinthe, who is going to the Ph.D. program at Ohio State University to pursue automotive application to improve on vehicle efficiency and emissions reduction, said he believes going to Day at the Capitol will show legislature members how important it is to fund research at the university.

“Innovation is critical. That’s what keeps us moving forward,” he said. “For students to have that ability to do undergraduate research at different institutions – I think that’s important.”

Another student who will showcase his undergraduate research is Jeremy Tran, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences. He will be presenting research he is conducting on cancer.

“Your cells are very smart. They have ways of regulating their growth, and they have ways of stopping their growth once they reach a certain point in their life cycle,” Tran said. “With cancer, often these genes are silenced, so the growth regulation is lost and all of a sudden they’re a train rampaging through your body.”

Tran’s research entails screening for drugs that reverse this silencing. He tests different chemical compounds, searching for anything that seems to either turn these genes back on or slow down the progression of a tumor. Tran, who lost a grandfather to lung cancer and esophagus cancer, and an uncle to a rare form of knee cancer, hopes that one day he’ll find a possible solution that will reverse the gene silencing of cancer.

“I hope that maybe my research will prevent a death from that; maybe prevent someone from losing a loved one like I did,” he said.

Florentino said the issues that research students present can have a big influence on members of legislature.

“Just being there and showing that students took this day off to lobby for the university or our student interests says a lot,” Florentino said.


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