The 2019 UF iGEM Team recently won a silver medal at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition, held in Boston from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4.

The iGEM Competition brings together students from around the world to push the boundaries of synthetic biology by tackling everyday issues facing the world. This year’s competition saw more than 300 teams from over 40 countries compete against each other to design, build, test and measure a system of their own design.

For their project, the UF iGEM Team used the Synthetic Cellular Recorders Integrating Biological Events (SCRIBE) System to quantify the concentration of heavy metals in tap water in Florida that may go improperly assessed.

“This award gives UF the opportunity to be recognized for research on an international level,” team member and student Nikila Ojili said. “Over 3,500 students from the world attended the conference at Boston, and we learned so much about the kind of work people are doing. It’s an eye-opening experience with respect to the rapid advancement of synthetic biology. I highly advise students to participate!”

The team of students that worked on this project include: Nicole Kantor, Samantha Golden, Anil Patel, Shivani Doshi, Julie Mallinger, Alexandra Gaskins, Nikila Ojili, Jessica Zheng and Zach Zeller. They were mentored by Assistant Professor Dr. Christopher Reisch of the Department of Microbiology and Cell Science.

Congratulations to the team — for more information on UF iGEM and their work, click here.

Surrounded by salty water, sea snakes sometimes live a thirsty existence. Previously, scientists thought that they were able to drink seawater, but recent research has shown that they need to access freshwater. A new study published in PLOS ONE on Feb. 7 and led by Harvey Lillywhite, professor of biology of the University of Florida, shows that sea snakes living where there is drought relieve their dehydration as soon as the wet season hits, and do so by obtaining freshwater from “lenses” that form on the surface of the ocean during heavy rain—events in which the salinity at the surface decreases enough for the water to be drinkable.

The yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis platurus) is the only reptile in the order Squamata that lives on the open sea. It has one of the largest geographic ranges of any vertebrate species. Given its broad range and seafaring existence, during the dry season (6-7 months at the study site in Costa Rica) it has no access to freshwater. How they survive in regions of drought seems to hinge upon access to freshwater lenses, but little is known about how marine vertebrates react to or consume rainfall. “This study contributes to a fuller understanding of how pelagic sea snakes, and possibly other marine animals, avoid desiccation following seasonal drought at sea,” said Lillywhite.

The researchers captured 99 sea snakes off the coast of Costa Rica (interestingly, the snakes have never been observed in estuaries) and offered them freshwater in a laboratory environment. The team happened to be there just as six months of drought broke and the rainy season began. They found that only 13 percent of snakes captured after the rainfall began accepted the offer, compared to 80 percent of those captured before. The rainfall must have quenched their thirst.

The study continues many years of work by Lillywhite. The present paper was coauthored by Mark Sandfoss, Lillywhite’s current PhD student, Coleman Sheehy, his former student who is now the Collections Manager in Herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and then-Fulbright visiting scholar Jenna Crowe-Riddell.

“How these animals locate and harvest precipitation is important in view of the recent declines and extinctions of some species of sea snakes,” said Lillywhite. The question remains: How will climate change and its effects on precipitation impact the sea snakes?

Keiwan Ratliff ’18 started his college career in the summer of 1999 but left without a degree when he became a second-round draft pick in the NFL. He readily admits that his focus at the time was more on athletics than academics, something the Cincinnati Bengals recognized when they chose him in 2004. Ratliff played for a number of teams and retired from football when he was injured in 2011. He always knew something was missing and decided to return to school in 2016. As an adult with a full life, he discovered that UF Online offered him the perfect opportunity to finish his studies, this time with a focus on academics. He graduated at age 37 last summer with a degree in sociology.

Ratliff says that he was more focused and engaged that he had been when he first attended UF “because of the fact that I was finally into being a student.”

Ratliff with Dan Mullen during the Gators’ practice on Friday, August 10, 2018 at the Sanders football practice fields in Gainesville, FL / UAA Tim Casey

UF Online is a relatively young program — it turns five this year — and has been making an impressive show in the national rankings. On Jan. 15, U.S. News and World Report announced that UF Online is No. 5 for the best online programs in the country, up from No. 12 in 2018. UF shares the No.5 with the Penn State World Campus and the University of Illinois at Chicago Extended Campus.
UF Online offers 20 majors, and eight of those reside within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: anthropology, biology, computer science, criminology, geography, geology, psychology, and sociology.

Evangeline Cummings, UF assistant provost and director of UF Online, notes that the college has been a leader in undergraduate innovation from the beginnings of the program. For instance, she says, “Faculty across Liberal Arts and Sciences departments from biology to physics, from Spanish to criminology, and now, faculty in chemistry are all truly transforming their undergraduate learning experiences to leverage the possibilities of online engagement and welcome students into the UF learning environment, regardless of their location. Only with the top faculty engaged in delivering the most engaging and challenging undergraduate courses and labs will UF continue to thrive as a leader in online programs.”

Advising Dean Joe Spillane emphasizes that Liberal Arts and Sciences is committed to adult and distance learners not just in advising but also in other areas of academic life. Online students may participate in research, senior theses, combined degree programs, ROTC, study abroad, student clubs and organizations, and marching band. Online students are encouraged in every way to be a part of the Gator Nation. To date, Liberal Arts and Sciences has also celebrated the graduations of 1,561 Gators with bachelor degrees earned through the UF Online path.

In 2017, UF Online launched the Employer Pathways Program and now partners with the Walt Disney Company, Walmart and Discover Financial services to support Gators that work at these companies and therefore attend tuition free, if qualified for UF admissions.

A recent report from the Brookings Institution says that online education is the No. 1 trend in driving innovation in higher education. According to the report, “Enrollment in online courses has more than quadrupled in the last 15 years in the U.S. While not as explosive in other countries, online options are gaining traction around the world. Given the increased cost of higher education, online programs are offering not just increased flexibility, but also a major reduction in cost.”

Evangeline says it’s important to note that UF’s online education does not skimp in quality. “Through UF Online,” she says, “UF is demonstrating that a preeminent, research university can modernize its undergraduate experience, expand access to higher education, and deliver engaging and supportive bachelor’s programs fully online without compromising the academic rigor it is well-known for.”

Read the full announcement on UF News.

University of Florida student Aaron Sandoval, a sophomore, has been awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2018-2019 academic year. Andrew Sack, a junior, was recognized with an Honorable Mention. Both are members of the UF Honors Program.

Sandoval is a biology major and plans to earn an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology before pursuing a research career in regenerative medicine. He is also a UF University Scholar and currently conducts research with Dr. Malcolm Maden, UF biology professor and researcher in the Cancer and Genetics Research Complex.

young man standing in front of green chalkboard with math equations

Andrew Sack Tim Sofranko

Sack is a mathematics major with plans to earn a Ph.D. in math and teach at a university.

“I’m proud to have Aaron Sandoval and Andrew Sack receive recognition from Goldwater for the outstanding records they have compiled at UF,” said Mark Law, director of the UF Honors Program. “They will go on to great things with their research and academic interests.”

The Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate award in the fields of natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. It is awarded to students who demonstrate outstanding work in these areas and encourages them to continue their career paths.

This year, 1,280 students from 470 institutions were nominated for the scholarship. The Goldwater Foundation awarded 211 nominees with scholarships and named an additional 281 as Honorable Mentions.

Past Goldwater Scholars include other members of the UF Honors Program, Mihael Cudic (2017, electrical engineering), Tiffany Paul (2016, physics), Colin Defant (2015, mathematics) and Lauren McCarthy (2015, chemistry).

Originally published on UF News.

UF zoologists discover a mysterious disappearance of seabirds on a Florida key.

Contact: Mark Sandfoss
Harvey Lillywhite

Mysteriously vanished waterbirds. Cannibalistic snakes. An island with no freshwater except for rainfall. It may sound like a Crichton novel or SyFy original movie, but it’s the reality of Seahorse Key, part of the Gulf Coast Cedar Keys that University of Florida biologists have been researching since the 1930s, when the renowned late zoologist Archie Carr first began studying the unusually large cottonmouth population there.

Cottonmouths are the world’s only semi-aquatic viper and also one of the few snakes that eat carrion. Unlike many other Florida snakes that eagerly consume bird eggs and hatchlings, cottonmouths enjoy a more pescatarian diet, which made them a great neighbor for the birds that nested on the keys. Birds are notoriously messy eaters and, on Seahorse Key, pelicans, cormorants, and other waterbirds made a smorgasbord of fish scraps for the cottonmouths, that also ate the rats lurking around the nests in hopes of snatching an egg or two.

This beneficial arrangement collapsed when the birds suddenly abandoned their nests. In the western part of Seahorse Key, where most of the rookeries were, cottonmouths have struggled ever since, limited to the occasional stranded fish or forced to eat each other. So discovered Mark Sandfoss, UF zoology doctoral student, who was two years into his research on waterbird–cottonmouth mutualism in the Cedar Keys, only to discover that one party was vanishing. In April 2015, the birds abandoned their rookeries on Seahorse Key for reasons still unknown, and as Sandfoss continued to capture, tag, and track the snakes, he found that many of them were small, weak, and dying. The research was published on Nov. 6, 2017, in the Journal of Zoology.

Sandfoss is a mentee of UF biology professor Harvey Lillywhite, who was director of Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory from 1998 to 2012 and who has studied the cottonmouths for almost two decades. “I knew, and was curious about, the dense population of cottonmouths on Seahorse Key for years,” said Lillywhite. “In 1998, I became the director of the Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory and decided to conduct a research program there to better familiarize myself with the island.”

Eleven years prior to Sandfoss beginning his research, Lillywhite and his student and eventual postdoc, Coleman Sheehy, published their observations of the island cottonmouths’ intense foraging behavior, especially below the rookeries. At that time, they noticed that drought was affecting the birds, and therefore the snakes. However, decades of literature showed that the Cedar Keys experienced natural cycles of inhabitation. The total abandonment of the Seahorse Key rookery was unprecedented, but presented what Sandfoss calls a “natural experiment.” What would become of the Seahorse Key cottonmouths?

Over the years, Lillywhite and Sheehy, now the herpetology collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History, have continued their annual check-ups of the snakes. Sandfoss was intrigued by their work and cites Lillywhite’s lab as his primary reason for coming to UF.

Cottonmouths (genus Agkistrodon), also called water moccasins, have a broad geographic range, making them a common fright in 16 states. Despite their scare tactic— a threatening gape that shows the white interior of their mouth, hence their name — incidence of human bites is low, and they are not particularly aggressive. They present little danger to humans, said Sandfoss, and “they’re really cool — and nice.” They’re especially so in Seahorse Key, where many have become accustomed to being approached and handled. In Florida, all cottonmouths are the species A. conanti, recently upgraded from a subspecies. (Interestingly, the type specimen for the species description was found just seven miles outside Gainesville.) Fairly tolerant of saltwater, the cottonmouths were able to populate Florida’s barrier islands. Unfortunately, they are not strong oceanic swimmers, and although their island lifestyle is no longer as blissful as it was, they are not well equipped to migrate.

Many snakes are ovivoric (egg-eating) and especially so on islands, where resources are scarce, but the Cedar Keys featured a remarkable symbiotic relationship. Typically, in island ecosystems with both birds and snakes, snakes prey upon the birds, explained Lillywhite. However, at Seahorse Key, the birds feed the snakes in a different way — their table scraps, so to speak. Sandfoss was entranced by the research potential of the Cedar Keys’ denizens: “The behavior and biology of the cottonmouths that survive on these islands is fascinating. It is truly a unique system.”

Although snakes are generally evolved to handle long periods without sustenance, the nesting season had lasted March to November in Seahorse Key, providing a long-term source of energy for the cottonmouths. Despite A. conanti’s guts of steel and exploratory feeding, starvation is still a real possibility and, if not fatal, detrimental to reproductive efforts in a species that bears live young.

Those live young get a taste for their prey in the early days of life, and in the western part of Seahorse Key, where birds bestowed a regular rain of fish detritus upon them, the young quickly lived up to their scientific name, derived from Latin for “fish eater.” Previous research by Lillywhite and Sheehy shows that although cottonmouths won’t turn their nose up at unfamiliar prey, they do develop a palate. On the eastern part of Seahorse Key, where fewer birds roosted before the 2015 abandonment, cottonmouths seem to have adapted to a less fishy diet, and therefore were not as negatively affected by the birds’ departure.

The nearby Snake Key seems to have fared better, although less research has been done there. “Now that bird nesting is occurring on Snake Key and not Seahorse Key we are interested to see how Snake Key cottonmouths will fare as a population,” said Sandfoss. “We suspect that the Snake Key population will receive some positive benefits from the presence of the nesting waterbirds.” The team plans to continue monitoring the keys and tracking the cottonmouth population. Meanwhile, Sandfoss, who received the 2017–18 Seahorse Key Fellowship, is tackling the question of how snakes subsist in an environment virtually free of freshwater — another characteristic of these unusual, island-dwelling snakes. Clearly, life finds a way in the Cedar Keys.

See photos and more on Exposure.

Anthropological analysis of shark bites provides a new standard for forensic science.

Although the fear of sharks has persisted for centuries and shows no sign of cessation, a great white is the least of Floridians’ risks in the water. Now, UF forensic anthropologists and the Florida Museum’s shark expert have joined forces to use sharks’ behavior to help forensic scientists determine cause of death for those who perish at sea. A paper published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in May 2017 analyzes six cases in which human remains were recovered from the oceans around Florida.

The C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory does forensic casework for any agencies and professionals who need the identity and cause of death for human remains. When Allysha Winburn, PhD ’17, and Michala Stock, PhD candidate and alumni fellow, were assigned a case involving a partial skeleton recovered from Florida’s Atlantic Coast, they discovered what appeared to be shark bites on the bones. “I thought, hey, we have a shark specialist here. Let’s call the shark specialist!” recalls Winburn, referring to George Burgess of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Their examination led them to conclude that a bull or tiger shark had likely scavenged on the adrift remains. They applied anthropological analysis to five other cases documented in forensic literature and crafted some guidelines to help investigators and medical examiners determine two things for bodies found in the ocean: Shark attack or no? If shark, predation or scavenging?

Allysha Winburn, PhD candidate, examines remains.

“Sharks seem scary, but in the ocean, you’re more likely to die another way.” – Allysha Winburn

“Sharks seem scary, but in the ocean, you’re more likely to die another way,” Winburn says, echoing the sentiment expressed by shark experts everywhere, including Burgess. With each news report of a shark attack, galeophobia (fear of sharks) surges again, while game fishing of sharks and overfishing of their food supply continue to decimate their populations. It’s no surprise that sharks scavenge on human victims of boating accidents; however, most shark species, with the notable exception of tiger sharks, apparently don’t care for the taste.

Winburn, a former bioarchaeologist, is excited about the prospects of the paper. “I hope the findings will be used whenever shark-scavenged remains are found,” she says. Some hallmarks include parallel gouging in the bones with striations that indicate serrated teeth that indicate a marine carnivore (terrestrial ones usually have smooth teeth), compression fractures that indicate a powerful jaw, and torsion patterning that reflect sharks’ twisting form as they bite.

young woman in lab coat using tool to measure human skull Michala Stock, Alumni Fellow at the Pound Lab, measures a skull.


“It feels meaningful to have a very specialized skillset that can be deployed to help people to rest.” – Michala Stock

Both Winburn and Stock are NYU alumni; other than that, their collaboration the nexus of forensic anthropology and shark research was fortuitous. Stock arrived at UF four years ago after completing her Master’s at NYU. A former professional dancer and the daughter of a physician, Stock naturally was intrigued by the human form and how the skeleton shapes physicality. Her dissertation research examines how human sexual dimorphism emerges during childhood development of the skeleton.

Winburn, who arrived at UF seven years ago to switch careers after seeing how forensic anthropologists helped identify Katrina victims, tackles the questions of the aging skeleton from the other end, studying whether physical stress such as intensive exercise exacerbates age-related changes in the hip joint. Her findings suggest that the acetabulum — the pelvis side of the hip joint — is an accurate marker of age.

Together, they’re providing scientific standards for identifying human remains, as part of a relatively small academic community. They are only 400–500 practitioners of forensic anthropology in the United States, explains Winburn. “It’s not glamorous … it’s dirty, thankless and psychologically difficult field,” she says. “So if you have the skillset and mindset to do it — do it.” She points out that many cold-case victims are from minority or marginalized populations. “If we can be the voice for those people, then let’s be the voice for those people,” she says. Stock adds, “It feels meaningful to have a very specialized skillset that can be deployed not only to help people to rest, but to bring information and closure to the people remaining.”

Both are quite familiar with the gravitas of their discipline. After pursuing forensic anthropology, Winburn joined the renewed excavation of the ruins of the World Trade Center in 2007. Eight years later, Stock worked on a later phase of the project. “Every anthropologist and archaeologist from the Tri-State Area was employed to sift through [and identify] those remains,” Winburn says.

The field has been growing thanks to the popularity of Kathy Reichs’ semi-autobiographical novels about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, and her TV counterpart of the same name, nicknamed “Bones.” Winburn is appreciative of pop culture’s portrayal, even if it’s not as glamorous, “if it brings people into the field.” She and Stock are less impressed by the scientific accuracy — or lack thereof — of shark research in recent shark movies. “Sharknado?!” laughs Stock.

Of course, in forensic anthropology, sharks are less the villains and moreso the bystanders — and sometimes, a clue. Thanks in part to Winburn, Stock, and Burgess’ research, the shark standards are being set for forensic science to find out the tooth — er, truth.

See this story as part of a three-story series about the intersections among the studies of humans, sharks, and their relationship.

UF researchers conduct first implicit bias research on environmentalist attitudes and behaviors.

UF Assistant Professor of Psychology Kate Ratliff and graduate researcher Liz Redford have published the first study using implicit measures of attitudes toward environmentalists. The paper was published on March 28 in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Their research, conducted in collaboration with Jenny Howell, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio University, suggests that people’s implicit attitudes towards environmentalists aren’t as favorable towards environmentalists as they say they are.

Combining data from Project Implicit, which offers online implicit association tests (IATs) to the global community, with data from on-campus research, the researchers found that implicit attitudes about the prototypical environmentalist better predicted environmentally friendly behavior, such as recycling or carpooling, than explicit attitudes. However, explicit attitudes are inflated compared to implicit ones, as people manage their impressions by emphasizing their “green” philosophy, even if they don’t walk the talk.

Kate Ratliff standing in front of bulletin board
Kate Ratliff in her office

“Humans are incredibly social,” said Ratliff. “We care about what others think of us, and these results suggest that we’re more likely to engage in behavior that is good for the environment if we believe that we’ll get positive regard — from ourselves or others — for doing so.” This phenomenon, called social desirability bias, can be mitigated by using IATs, which require rapid responses that leave no room for higher-level thinking.

The IATs and speeded self-reports assessed respondents’ evaluations of environmentalists in five positive and negative dimensions: attractiveness, fun, cool, intelligence, and “judgmentalness.” For the first three dimensions, respondents’ implicit attitudes weren’t as favorable toward environmentalists as their explicit values, perhaps because people have internalized negative societal attitudes, even if they say they think environmentalism is “cool.”

“Even if we think it’s important to eat vegetarian, for example, we might not do so if we have negative views of the typical vegetarian,” said Ratliff. However, implicit attitudes better predicted environmentally friendly behavior than did explicit attitudes. The exception was on the intelligence value, for which both implicit and explicit attitudes predicted green behavior.

Interestingly, on the “judgmentalness” dimension, implicit and explicit attitudes were equally favorable, and self-reported green behavior was not predicted by those attitudes. However, for those with less positive explicit attitudes, implicit attitudes were linked to less green behavior. That is, how people behave has a lot to do with implicit, automatic evaluations of groups associated with the behaviors in question.

Two UF students have received the Frost Scholarship, which funds an intensive master’s-level course for graduating seniors in the State University System of Florida to study at the University of Oxford. The scholarship covers 100 percent of tuition and academic fees and includes a grant for living costs. Out of 10 students selected from the state of Florida, Nicholas Pasternack, on the left, and Daniel Aldridge ’16, right, will represent UF to study immunology and neuroscience, respectively.

photo of two smiling young men standing in front of green wall with insigna reading "Honors Program"
Nicholas Pasternack, left, and Daniel Aldridge, right

Both students are members of the UF Honors Program, which enhances research opportunities and offers special courses for undergraduate students.

Aldridge is an ambassador for the UF honors organization Science for Life, which runs the Gator Student Research Club. He also organized a “Soles 4 Souls” campaign to send shoes to vulnerable communities. Pasternack is a University Scholar and serves on the Board of Students for the Center for Undergraduate Research. He also founded UF’s Magicians Club.

Funded by the Phillip and Patricia Frost Philanthropic Foundation, the Frost Scholarship program began in 2014 and will continue until 2018.

Research shows hunting can have catastrophic effects on tropical forests.

Overhunting has been disastrous for elephants, but their forest habitats have also been caught in the crossfire.

A first-of-its-kind study led by researchers at the University of Florida shows that the dramatic loss of elephants, which disperse seeds after eating vegetation, is leading to the local extinction of a dominant tree species, with likely cascading effects for other forest life.

Their work shows that loss of animal seed dispersers increases the probability of tree extinction by more than tenfold over a 100-year period.

“The entire ecosystem is at risk,” said Trevor Caughlin, a UF postdoctoral student and National Science Foundation fellow. “My hope for this study is that it will provide a boost for those trying to curb overhunting and provide incentives to stop the wildlife trade.”

Caughlin, joined by colleagues from UF, the Conservation Ecology Program in Thailand, Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the Royal Thai Forest Department, published their study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B showing how vital these animals are to maintaining the biodiversity of tropical forests in Thailand.

The team looked specifically at seed dispersal and how elephants contribute to moving the seeds around the forest.

The elephant has long been an important spiritual, cultural and national symbol in Thailand. At the beginning of the 20th century, their numbers exceeded 100,000. Today, those numbers have plunged to 2,000. Elephants, as well as other animals such as tigers, monkeys and civet cats, are under attack from hunters and poachers, mostly for fabled properties of their organs, teeth and tusks.

Caughlin spent three years gathering tree data in Thailand. He looked at the growth and survival of trees that sprouted from the parent tree and grew up in crowded environs, compared with seeds that were transported and broadcasted widely across the forest by animals. The data were supplemented with a dataset from the Thai Royal Forest Department that contained more than 15 years of data on trees to create a long-term simulation run on UF’s supercomputer, HiPerGator.

The team discovered that trees that grow from seeds transported by those animals being overhunted are hardier and healthier.

“Previously, it’s been unclear what role seed dispersal plays in tree population dynamics,” Caughlin said. “A tree makes millions of seeds during its lifetime, and only one of those seeds needs to survive to replace the parent tree. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like seed dispersal would be that important for tree population. What we found with this study is that seed dispersal has an impact over the whole life of a tree.”

Jeremy Lichstein, an assistant professor of biology at UF and one of the paper’s authors, said, “Our study is the first to quantify the decades-long effects of animal seed dispersal across the entire tree life cycle, from seeds to seedlings to adult trees.”

Richard Corlett, director of the Center for Integrative Conservation at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens in Yunnan, China, underscored the study’s importance.

“This study fills a major gap in our understanding of how overhunting affects forest trees, particularly in tropical forests,” he said. “We knew hunting was bad, but we were not sure why it was bad, and therefore could not predict the long-term impacts. Now we know it is really, really bad and will get worse. The message that ‘guns kill trees too’ should help put overhunting at the top of the conservation agenda, where it deserves to be.”

UF breaks ground for long awaited chemistry building.

The University of Florida will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for its new chemistry/chemical biology building at 11 a.m. Friday at the corner of University Avenue and Buckman Drive.

The facility will provide 110,000 square feet of space for undergraduate and graduate education, including an entire floor devoted to chemical biology and chemical synthesis.

“This will enable us to move into the strong, interdisciplinary area of chemical biology, which will allow us to collaborate with the medical school and the College of Engineering on drug discovery,” said professor Bill Dolbier, chair of the chemistry department.

The building is expected to cost $67 million. The state has committed $42 million toward the overall cost.

The University of Florida is among the top five doctoral chemistry programs in the country, despite its outdated labs and classrooms. This project has been a priority for President Bernie Machen, who said, “The continued rise of UF’s chemistry department is vital to the university and our plan for preeminence, and we will only remain on the trajectory with a facility that is truly world class. The new chemistry building will meet that high standard — aiding our scientists, empowering our students and enable the creative solutions to the increasingly complex and challenging technical problems facing our planet.”

Chemistry is a core discipline — required for engineering, biology and medicine. Forty percent of the current incoming freshman class is enrolled in general chemistry classes.

Dave Richardson, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said, “This new facility on University Avenue will no doubt become a popular destination for thousands of UF students every year, with its state-of-the-art teaching laboratories and striking interior design. The building will be an educational showplace that sets the bar for the next generation of instructional spaces at UF, and it will make a bold statement about our future to those visiting the campus.”