SEC Emerging Scholars Program

The SEC Emerging Scholars Program aims to promote the success of current doctoral students and postdoctoral associates in their professional development on the road to become future faculty members in an SEC member institution. SEC Emerging Scholars will attend the Career Preparation Workshop hosted by the University of Missouri in Columbia in late September, where they will attend multiple professional development sessions, and network with faculty and administrators from all SEC participating institutions. As a participating member of the program, the University of Florida was eligible to nominate 5 scholars to participate this year. Below are the outstanding scholars selected as SEC fellows.

Adania Flemming

Adania Flemming

Department/major: Biology/Zoology                          

Topic of research: Natural History Research collections (NHCs) be used as a resource to broaden diversity in STEM through undergraduate education

Program Year: 3rd year PhD Candidate

Adania is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida (UF) department of biology and the Florida Museum of Natural History (Florida Museum). She also serves as a research assistant with iDigBio project. She studies the ecology of fishes, their life history as well as how form relates to function. She is also interested in using natural history collections as a resource to introduce students of diverse backgrounds, particularly those most marginalized in STEM, to the field of Ichthyology and other sciences. Before joining UF, she earned a B.S. in marine biology from the University of Tampa. She completed a M.Sc. in zoology from the University of Florida. For her Ph.D. she is combining her interest in education with Ichthyology, through an interdisciplinary research project evaluating the impact of experiential learning within collections on students understanding of science development of science identities and interest in science careers. She uses BioBlitz as a tool in the Introduction to Natural History course she created at UF, which allows students to get experience collecting with a diverse (sex, race, field of study, age) set of scientists, to understand the importance and purpose of documenting Earth’s biodiversity. She was recently awarded The UF Alumni Association’s inaugural Leadership Award for DEI and the Dr. J. Michael Rollo award, “which honors students who foster diversity and inclusion within their communities.”

Adania loves exploring nature and visiting the beach as an escape and to enjoy the sound of the ocean waves. She also loves dancing to some good old Caribbean music such as soca and reggae, and loves Beyonce's music since it's great for singing and dancing. 

Twitter: @adanianscience

Christian Garcia

Department: Psychiatry, College of Medicine

Program & Year: Postdoc Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience

Research topic: Substance use/Addiction & Health disparities

Christian is a first-generation college graduate and the son of Cuban immigrants. He has been involved in psychological research since he was an undergraduate trainee and has greatly enjoyed working on understanding disparities related to substance use and substance use disorders among vulnerable groups throughout the adult lifespan. When he's not thinking about his next project, Christian enjoys coastal activities like visiting the beach, reading, cooking, spending time with his family and a great group of friends, as well as taking a trip to the park with his dog ‘Rey’.

Professional websites

Twitter: @chrisg_1205

Marisa Pacheco

Marisa Pacheco

Department/Major: Chemical Engineering, Stoppel Lab 

Year: 3rd year PhD candidate 

Research Topic: The Stoppel Lab specializes in silk fibroin biomaterials which are used for their excellent biocompatibility and tunable in vivo degradation properties. Marisa's work focuses on studying the synthesis of silk fibroin hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers and their elicited cellular/in vivo response. These nano- and micro- particles have therapeutic potential for use during blood loss or in various diseases/blood disorders.

Marisa is from a small town in Colorado called Louisville and graduated undergrad from CU Boulder in 2020 with a major in Chemical and Biological engineering. Her grandfather and dad were both teachers and encouraged her to be the first in the family to pursue an engineering degree. They, along with the rest of her family are the reason she is interested in becoming a professor in the future. In her free time Marisa likes to play tennis, play with her dog Oso, cook, and spend time outside. 



Lynsey Saunders

Department: Journalism

Topic of Research: Identity, New Media, Social and Cultural Movement, and Framing

Her dissertation topic looks at the projection of identity (social and personal) via #BlackLivesMatter (as a social movement) and hip hop (as a cultural movement) messaging shared on the platform, Twitter.

Progam Year: 9th year PhD Candidate

Lynsey Saunders is a native Floridian, who grew up fascinated by the stories of her birthplace, Key West, Florida. Lynsey returned to her alma mater, the University of Florida for a Ph.D. in Journalism and Communications. She has an M.A. in Arts and Culture Journalism from Columbia University. Lynsey has worked in TV and Radio, spending a year at Miami’s Fox affiliate, WSVN-7, and three years at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville, Florida, where she won several awards. Her area of interest and expertise combines her love of culture and communication and focuses on identity, movements, and new media. 

Lynsey is passionate about learning and experiencing Florida's nature and wildlife. She loves spending time outdoors gardening, walking nature trails, swimming, and boating with her dog Lucy, her son, and her husband.


Elder Varela

Elder Varela

College: Health & Human Performance

Department: Health Education & Behavior 

Research track: Diet & Nutrition 

Program Year: 4th - Doctoral Candidate

Research: Food & Nutrition Security, Multilevel Nutrition Interventions, PSE Evaluation

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Elder is a fourth-year doctoral candidate pursuing a degree in Health and Human Performance with a concentration in Health Education and Behavior and a minor in Research and Evaluation Methodology at the University of Florida. Elder is a certified health education specialist (CHES) and research assistant in the Nutrition Education and Behavioral Science (NEBS) lab led by Dr. Amy Mobley. Elder is also the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) Science Policy Fellow, Southeastern Conference (SEC) Emerging Scholar, and Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSP) Scholar. Her research focus is food and nutrition security in families with young children. Specifically, her dissertation research focuses on developing an evaluation tool to measure the impact of policy, systems and environmental (PSE) approaches on food and nutrition security and behavior change in SNAP recipients. While her dissertation research is being funded by the HHP Center for Behavioral Economic Health Research (CBEHR), she is also the recipient of the UF Graduate School Funding Award. Elder’s goal is to pursue a career in academia and continue to contribute to the field of community nutrition by developing nutrition education and behavioral interventions aimed to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes in vulnerable populations.

Elder was born in Lima, Peru. She moved to Miami, FL when she was 16 years old and finished high school there before moving to Gainesville for undergrad. Elder is also a first-generation college student and is receiving the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship since its inaugural year. She is trilingual and speaks Spanish, English, and French. Elder studied abroad in Paris for a semester and fell in love with the culture and people there. She loves traveling and considers it one of her hobbies and has visited several countries in Europe, Central and South America. She also loves party planning and would have been an Event Planning if she was not pursuing a career in academia. 


Twitter: @ElderGVarela1