i | UNIVERSITY of
Shanna Williams read plenty of mystery stories growing up, now she's getting to solve
mysteries of her own.
Williams, a doctoral student in forensic anthropology, is one of the lead researchers at
UF's C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory, where scientists use skeletal remains
to determine cause of death.
"We all have a little bit of Nancy Drew in us," says Williams. "I was always interested
in the sciences, but in some hard sciences, it's easy to lose the person. Forensic anthropol-
ogy brings the people back. It has allowed me to take my love of science and apply it to
something that has a positive end goal."
In a state-of-the-art laboratory inside a nondescript campus building, Williams and her
colleagues piece together people's lives through their bones. The lab averages more than
100 death investigations a year.
Whether it's a recent murder investigation or a centuries-old historical mystery, Wil-
liams says bones speak the truth.
"We all have the standard number
of bones, but how you lived your life is
going to manifest itself in those bones,"
Williams says. "We can look at a skel-
eton, the size and shape of the skull, the
dental characteristics, and it can tell us
tell us about ancestry, gender, all sorts
of things that can help us develop a
Williams says her specialty "always
makes for an interesting conversation
on a plane."
"I'm probably immune to the overall
creepiness of the field," she says, "but I
appreciate why some people might be
skeeved out by what we do."
"I' -eoabl -e munIItI
wh y so me 0e pl mi h b e
You probably pay little attention to
how you read a newspaper or news
Web site. But in an ever-more-com-
petitive business, newspaper publishers
and editors need to know what attracts
readers to their products so they can
deliver news and advertising the way
readers like it and allocate their scarce
So last year the Poynter Institute
- a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based journal-
ism think tank asked 600 print and
Web news readers from around the
country to let it watch how they got
Dubbed EyeTrack07, Poynter re-
searchers fitted these study participants
with special glasses that tracked where
they looked as they read. Poynter vid-
eotaped the subjects reading news and
looking at ads in broadsheets, tabloids
and Web sites at the St. Petersburg Times
(print and online), the Denver Rocky
Mountain News, the Philadelphia Daily
News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune
(print and online).
Doctoral student David Stanton
was part of a team who helped public
relations Professor Mary Ann Ferguson
analyze the results.
Each news organization recruited a
diverse group of 100 research partici-
Doctoral student David Stanton is analyzing the EyeTrack technology to understand
how print and Web readers respond to different layouts.
pants who were regular readers of news.
Each looked at a newspaper or a news
Web site at least once a week and seven
out of 10 read news four or more times
The glasses feature two cameras
above the right eye one records the
reflection of the eye in a monocle, the
other captures the target, in this case,
news stories, headlines, photographs,
ads, links and related elements.
By the time Poynter completed the
information gathering stage, it had vid-
eotaped 582 useable reading sessions.
After each day's testing at each site,
Poynter shipped hard drives of footage
to Gainesville, where Ferguson and her
student researchers went to work.
"It was a huge dataset, because for
each subject we had to record who it
was, what paper, what date," Ferguson says. "Then every time
the eye stopped, a number needed to be entered."
Two-person student teams spent more than 2,000 hours
over six months extracting detailed data from more than
102,000 eye stops. While one researcher ran the video and
identified the coded element as a reader's eyes locked onto
an item, the other researcher tracked the subjects' reading
progression, for instance when they flipped pages.
While he was instrumental in compiling the eye-tracking
data, Stanton is doing his dissertation on another part of the
study that Poynter has only partially explored.
Poynter also exposed the study subjects to three "proto-
type" newspapers that contained exactly the same information
presented in different ways. The goal of this portion of the
project was to evaluate how readers learn and recall informa-
All three prototypes contained the same information about
bird flu, including background on the disease's origins and the
possibility of an epidemic. The only difference was the way in
which the information was edited and packaged, both in print
One prototype consisted of a conventional headline, narra-
tive and photograph. Another contained a narrative story with
more factual information in a map and box. The third pro-
totype contained little narrative information, relying almost
exclusively on graphics.
After reading one of the prototypes, the subjects were
asked nine questions about bird flu designed to measure their
recall and what they learned.
From the questions, Poynter learned that the most graphi-
cal prototype lead to the greatest learning and recall.
But Stanton wants to take that analysis a step further, using
the EyeTrack07 videos to compare how print and Web readers
looked at the different prototypes.
"My teaching areas are computer and online storytelling,"
he says. "Online is the future. We need new, clear guidelines
and measurements. When we publish a story online, we need
to make sure we're doing it in a form that's appropriate for
Stanton says he is motivated by the knowledge that his
research is vital to the newspaper industry, which is struggling
for survival and desperately seeking new ways to attract and
"I'm passionate about this study," Stanton says. "It's a use-
ful, untapped area."
Living Stones ComeTo Life
Plants known as "living stones" might not sound
too dramatic, but to botany doctoral student Sam
Brockington they are fascinating.
Known by the scientific name lithos, which means
stone-like, the plants were first classified in southern Africa
in 1811 by an explorer who thought he was picking up a
As an adaptation to their dry, hot environment, most of
the plant is buried, with little stem and just two bulbous
leaves that look like the rocks around them.
But Brockington thinks their beautiful.
"Of course my favorite flowers are the ones I study," he
Understanding these unique flowering plants is part of
Brockington's contribution to the lab of botany Professors
Pam and Doug Soltis, where the focus is on using genetic
mapping to more clearly define the family tree of flowering
"We used to identify plants almost strictly by how they
looked," Brockington says. "But now we can study their
DNA to identify them so much more precisely."
Botanists have created hundreds of evolutionary "trees"
for specific groups of plants, outlining which species pre-
date and give rise to others, but until recently no one had
merged them all into one "supertree" mapping out all the
angiosperms, or flowering plants.
In 2004, the Soltises and four British colleagues coau-
thored a paper in the Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of
Sciences proposing an angiosperm "supertree" structure.
Since then, the Soltises and students like Brockington
have been working their way through the flowering plants,
filling in gaps in the angiosperm family tree.
"You never know what you're going to find as you focus
in on where these plants fit in the tree," Brockington says.
"A better understanding of how flowering plants function
may prove useful to both medical and agricultural scien-
Brockington, who grew up in England and frequented
the renowned British Museum, says he appreciates the
opportunity to conduct his research in a working museum.
"Some people have an image of museums as these dry,
dusty places," Brockington says. "But they're really very
dynamic. There are always artists and sculptors bringing
the science to life."
Doug Soltis says the supertree is also important because
it adds to a widespread effort to create similar trees for
other large groups of organisms. Eventually, the goal is to
create a comprehensive "Tree of Life," outlining the evolu-
tionary history and context of all living organisms.
"If, for example, you find that a
particular cancer-curing drug is in a par-
ticular plant, you might want to know,
'Where else can I find that chemical?,"'
Doug Soltis says. "Because close relatives
usually do similar things, you would
begin your search at that place in the tree.
"Or you might want to know, 'What
are the closest wild relatives to crop
q plants?' because you might go to those
plants to find a gene that would help you
improve disease resistance. We really can
learn a lot by knowing how different spe-
cies are related."
Student Seeks Protection For Butterfly
The Homerus swallowtail is the
Western Hemisphere's largest
butterfly, but UF doctoral student
Matt Lehnert says its numbers are so
small that conservation and captive
breeding efforts are needed to save
the insect, found only in two parts of
Lehnert's study, published month
in The Journal of Insect Conserva-
tion, was the first to estimate the
population found in western Jamaica's
remote "Cockpit Country." Lehnert
found about 50 adults in the area.
The good news is the population
was larger than expected, said Tom
Emmel, a UF entomology professor
who has helped rescue the endan-
gered Schaus swallowtail and Miami
blue butterflies native to Florida. Em-
mel is Lehnert's graduate adviser.
"From a conservation standpoint,
it shows there's more than one viable
population left for this magnificent
swallowtail," said Emmel, who directs
UF's McGuire Center for Lepidop-
tera and Biodiversity at the Florida
Museum of Natural History.
But the population isn't large
enough to withstand illegal collection
or rampant development, he said.
With a 6-inch wingspan, only a
few butterflies in the world are bigger.
The largest is Papua New Guinea's
Queen Alexandra's birdwing, which
has a 14-inch wingspan.
The Homerus is black with yel-
low bands and red and blue spots. It
once inhabited seven of Jamaica's 13
provinces, but as land was cleared for
coffee plantations and farmland it
disappeared from most.
Few people live in the rugged
Cockpit Country, but deforestation
and bauxite mining could destroy the
butterfly's habitat, said Lehnert.
Jamaica adopted the butterfly as
a symbol of its only national park,
established partly to protect its other
Homerus population, on the island's
east side, Emmel said. The eastern
population, which has fewer than 50
adults, is more accessible and more
widely studied. Emmel believes Cock-
pit Country should house a second
"We now know of several areas
near Matt's concentration area worth
proposing as conservation areas," Em-
mel said. "Cockpit Country has other
unique species, too, including a parrot
and several plants."
Cockpit Country was named for
its rugged terrain, created by innu-
merable sinkholes. The name refers to
the similarity between the sinkholes
and cockfighting pits.
Lehnert conducted the study by
netting adult butterflies, marking
and logging the insects, then using
statistical methods to estimate the
He may pursue postdoctoral work
at the University of the West Indies
at Mona, Jamaica, to help develop
a captive breeding program for the
In his doctoral research, Lehnert is
studying genetic differences between
Florida tiger swallowtail populations.
The results could help researchers de-
cide whether crossbreeding Homerus
swallowtails from the two Jamaican
populations would be successful.
Emmel said a captive breeding
program is the ultimate goal.
F or decades, state wildlife officials
have been trapping and relocating
so-called "nuisance bears" that get too
close to humans.
But a new University of Florida
study shows the policy may merit a
"No one had any idea, when we
move these bears, what becomes of
them," said graduate student Kim An-
nis, "So the object of all this was is
relocating these bears doing what the
state thinks it does?"
According to Annis'
idea, study, done in conjunc-
tion with the Florida Fish
>ears, and Wildlife Conservation
m, so Commission (FWC), the
was widely held public percep-
bears tion that relocating problem
hinks bears means they scamper
into the forest and live hap-
Annis pily ever after isn't entirely
Nuisance bears tear up
campsites, get into people's garbage,
drink out of swimming pools, eat farm-
ers' chickens or generally get too close
for human comfort.
Annis and officials from FWC's
Florida Wildlife Research Institute put
radio-tracking collars on 41 such bears
that were being relocated from nine
Florida counties to the Ocala National
Forest in North Central Florida. She
followed them, on foot and by plane,
from May 2004 through December
Eight bears died during the study.
One was euthanized after repeatedly
trying to enter a home. One died of
natural causes. Two were hit by cars.
Another died in a forest fire. Three were
While the mortality rate for the
relocated bears wasn't radically differ-
ent from typical rates for Florida black
bears, humans were directly or indi-
rectly responsible for seven of the eight
And relocating the bears didn't
always stop the bad behavior.
Nearly half the bears engaged in at
least one instance of nuisance behavior
even after being moved and 34 per-
cent of them did so more than once.
UF wildlife ecology and conserva-
tion Professor Mel Sunquist, who
supervised Annis' work, said it appears
that if you move the bears far enough
away, they're less inclined to return to
their home turf.
But in Florida, as development has
boomed, bear habitat has dwindled, so
with only six large habitats left, moving
every nuisance bear far enough away is
expensive and inconvenient.
"If you are in someplace like Mon-
tana, you can cart them off, turn them
loose and never see them again," he
said. "But we don't have that luxury
Annis noted that four of the bears
covered a lot of ground, traversing up
to 541 miles and crossing busy high-
Walt McCown, an FWC bear re-
search biologist, said the mileage some
bears logged was a bit of a surprise.
Black bears can live close to humans
and are rarely aggressive, McCown said.
Nuisance behavior is almost always a
"No one had any
when we move these b
what becomes of their
the object of all this
- is relocating these
doing what the state t
result of the bears looking for food.
And find food they do, especially
around humans, Annis said.
Annis found several bears that were
much fatter than they would be if
they were living off the forest and
not people's backyards. One young
male that should've weighed about 90
pounds was a portly 275, she said.
"In the fall, a bear can eat 20 hours
a day and needs 20,000 calories but
why do that when they can get that
-. f from a bird feeder in 20
minutes?" she said.
Though there are
S pockets of black bears in
eight forests around the
S state, by far, the most
complaints come from
residents who live near
the 430,000-acre Ocala
National Forest. Of 1,600
nuisance-bear calls to
FWC in 2004, more than
half were from that area,
Educating the public
about ways to peacefully
S coexist with their large,
S furry neighbors may
be a better option than
spending thousands each
year to move or euthanize
them, the study suggests.
The Florida black bear
has been a threatened
species since 1974, when
there were between 500
and 1,000 bears in the state. Bear hunt-
ing was banned statewide in 1994. The
state's bear population is now believed
to be between 2,200 and 3,000, with
about 1,100 in the Ocala National For-
est and the St. Johns area
Novel Teaching Approach
W\ esley Beal says he is most proud
of his students when they use
classic 20th-century novels "as a labora-
tory in which to investigate cultural
values and practices and to interrogate
their own assumptions about them."
Beal, a doctoral student in the
English department, is the recipient of
UF's Calvin A. VanderWerf Award, pre-
sented to the university's top graduate
In his class, "Survey of the Ameri-
can Novel, 1925-1939," Beal exposes
his students to the likes of William
Faulkner, Dashiel Hammett and John
Dos Pasos as a window into the early-
century modernist period.
In addition to helping students
appreciate different genres of litera-
ture, Beal says he tries to help students
come to terms with some of the key
historical, economic and philosophical
developments of the last century.
English department Chair Pamela
Gilbert says Beal emerged out of a
rigorous review of graduate teaching
assistants as the clear choice for the
Gilbert cited a faculty member's ob-
servation of Beal in action: "Wesley has
designed an unusually sophisticated and
demanding syllabus; he is intellectually
demanding in his choice of texts and in
his classroom questions; and he has a
relaxed rapport with his students. This
is a nifty class."
Beal says that at the beginning of
every semester, he tell his class that "all
of us are simultaneously both students
"I encourage students to show me
the gaps and counter-arguments to gen-
eral paradigms I lay out in class and to
stitch together their own narrative that
fits the readings into a coherent plot,"
Beal says. "This exercise, because it puts
so much of the learning in their hands,
empowers students to assume informed
and informative leadership roles in their
Termites Torpedo Insulation
Termites aren't just out to eat the
wood in your home. A new UF
study shows the voracious insects like
to feast on your home's insulation, too
- making it nearly 75 percent less
Doctoral student Cynthia Tucker
conducted tests measuring how ter-
mites damage the thermal properties or
insulation in homes and other build-
ings. She exposed three types of widely
used construction materials 2-by-4
boards, five-ply plywood and foam
board insulation to the pest for
"All three building construction
materials were damaged by termites,
but the pest caused more damage to
insulation than to either the wooden
2-by-4 or plywood samples," Tucker
said. The results were published in the
The thermal imaging tests, which
measured heat transfer through the
three building materials, focused on
damage caused by a species of subter-
ranean termite, Reticulitermesflavipes,
that's well known in North America.
Tucker, who is completing work on
her doctoral degree in entomology at
UF's College of Agricultural and Life
Sciences, said they were surprised to
find that rigid foam board insulation
was most heavily damaged by termites,
with 12 percent of the material being
removed by termites in eight weeks,
causing a 27 percent loss in insulation
"Most types of insulation are com-
posed of plastic that's not a source of
food for termites, but the soft texture
of insulation allows termites to build
extensive tunnels and consume paper
that lines the outside surface," Tucker
said. "In fact, the insulation materials
are an almost ideal habitat because they
protect the pest from cold tempera-
She said tests showed that plywood
was the most resistant to heat flow, but
once termites damaged the plywood,
temperature changes were significant.
After termites ate just 3.1 percent of
the wood, insulation values dropped 74
When the pest attacked 2-by-4
boards, consuming 6.7 percent of the
wood by tunneling along the fibers and
within softer spring wood, there was a
35 percent drop in insulation values.
"Until recently, changes in the ther-
mal properties of a structure caused
by termites especially for buildings
in areas where temperature extremes
require lots of heating or air condition-
ing have been overlooked," Tucker
Termite damage has been most
commonly thought of in terms of
weakening structures, making infested
areas prone to collapse, she said. Water
damage is also linked to these termites
because they bring moisture up from
the soil into structures.
D.R. Sapp, president of Florida
Pest Control and Chemical Co. in
Gainesville, said the research provides
valuable information that many hom-
Insulation can be a "termite turn-
pike" because the foam material has
a low density and holds moisture, he
said, making it easy for the pest to
quickly tunnel through buildings and
Ph.D. Mentors for 2008
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Timothy Judge is one of the most-
cited academics in the field of orga-
nizational behavior, but current and
former students and colleagues say it his
interest in them that makes him a great
Beth A. Livingston, a current
doctoral candidate, credits Judge with
helping her turn an idea she had in
her first semester in graduate school
into a first-authored paper in a top-tier
"Despite his impressive resume and
position as a full professor, he still has
a hunger for research and a motiva-
tion to develop students into successful
academics," Livingston says.
Indeed, many of Judge's former
students now hold faculty positions
at some of the nation's top business
"Tim is clearly doing something
right," says former student Joyce Bono,
an assistant professor at the University
Judge claims no grand plan for men-
toring, calling the lessons he has learned
a "realized strategy."
"I tell my doctoral students that they
will never be more alone than when
they are assistant professors," he says.
"My job is to prepare students for how
to self-manage their work and their
Not surprisingly, Connie Shehan
borrows a phrase from social psychol-
ogy to describe her role as a mentor.
"The ultimate goal, of course, is to
launch our students into independent
careers, 'packing their parachutes' to
help give them flight but cushion their
landings," Shehan says. "The parachute,
of course, includes introduction into
national and international networks of
scholars, proactive assistance in the job
search, and continuing guidance once
they've secured a position."
Shehan's students and colleagues in-
dicate they would be more than willing
to jump out of a plane for her.
"Connie embodies the meaning of
the word mentor," says Kristin Joos,
one of Shehan's doctoral graduates and
a lecturer in the sociology department.
"She has been a trusted counselor and
guide to me and over a hundred other
Joos says one of Shehan's greatest
strengths as a mentor is her ability to
"I do not think the word impossible
is in her vocabulary," Joos says.
Shehan says she views her mentoring
role as that of a guardian.
"This means that I am entrusted
with the responsibility and the privilege
of nurturing new scholars, in all their
glorious humanness, as they pursue
the career and the discipline I value so
Since coming to UF in 1998,
Wolfgang Sigmund has mentoredl4
doctoral and 16 master's students, but
as department chair Kevin Jones says
"Dr. Sigmund is clearly more con-
cerned with the quality of his students'
education than he is with graduation
"Each student is an individual,
is unique, has different talents, and
needs development in different areas,"
Sigmund says. "I mentor each one
with these things in mind. Within this
learner-centered framework, I polish a
student's strengths and guide her/him
to improve on the weaknesses."
Graduate research fellow Vasana Ma-
neeratana says she met Sigmund when
she was an undergraduate.
"Through various avenues, he
coached me to become a better research-
er by advising me to grow deeply in the
science while maintaining the overall
perspective of the work in the scientific
community," Maneeratana says.
Sigmund's lab group is extremely di-
verse, Jones says, but despite their many
different cultures, all are successful.
"Anyone who has been involved in
graduate mentorship understands the
challenges that working with a large
group from various backgrounds can
present," Jones says, "but I think you
can see in this nomination that Dr.
Sigmund has a real skill and determina-
tion to meet those challenges for the
ultimate success of each student."
Students' Life Blood Is Research
Graduate student research is the life-blood of graduate education, particularly for
doctoral students. The level of research engagement a graduate student has is a good
indicator of the quality of his or her educational experience.
This graduate research experience has important implications for society. Our
doctoral alumni are the world's future academic, scientific and intellectual leaders. The
Carnegie Foundation describes these students as "stewards" of their discipline, who can
"creatively generate new knowledge, critically conserve valuable and useful ideas, and
responsibly transform those understandings through writing, teaching, and application."
Although the doctorate is the paramount degree, the University of Florida hopes all of
its graduate students will be stewards of their discipline. Doctoral and master's students
contribute in countless ways to the research and teaching enterprise of the institution,
and obtain critical knowledge and skills they then use to enrich the lives of the people
These bright young people are essential to the research mission of great research uni- -
versities like the University of Florida. Research keeps the torch of progress moving and
graduate students will always play a critical role in that movement.
HENRY T. FRIERSON
ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT &
DEAN OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
UF UNIVERSITY of
SEXews For & About
University of Florida
G r a duate Students