17 inspiring people we met in 2017 A few of the amazing University of Florida professors, students, alumni and staff UF News covered this year

1) Michael Hendricks

Hendricks' journey out of homelessness and addiction was capped off with his December graduation from UF with a 4.0. Full story

2) Calistus Ngonghala

The University of Florida assistant professor of mathematical biology uses math to understand cycles of poverty and disease in developing countries.

“There’s this idea that math is just solving equations and it’s not all that useful in everyday life," Ngonghala says. "Actually, math is a special language, a fundamental tool, for critical thinking in almost every walk of life. My ambition is to put equations into practical use. And I’m trying to do it in a way that relates directly to me, to my home country, and to the problems I experienced growing up.” Full story

3-5) The UF grads making a new NatGeo WILD series

Filmmakers and recent UF grads McKenzie Barney, Brian Moghari and Filipe DeAndrade criss-crossed the country to share their passion for nature and conservation in the NatGeo WILD series "Untamed with Filipe DeAndrade." Next up: Season 2 in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Comfort Theory. Full story

6-9) The student team behind the Virtual Traffic Stop app

UF computer and information science and engineering students DeKita Moon, Isabel Laurenceau, Michelle Emamdie and Jessica Jones created an app for routine traffic stops that allows the officer and the driver to remain in their vehicles, with the goal of making interaction between law enforcement and citizens safer for all involved. Full story

10) Dan Frank

Photo courtesy of Navajo Technical University

This mechanical engineering doctoral student spent the fall semester working on coding and robotics with Navajo high school and college students.

“The goal is to help the students to see engineering as something that’s inherent to their culture, rather than something that is foreign,” he says. Full story

11-13) The scientists of Becoming Visible

Our series marking the 100th anniversary of the Florida Museum highlighted three up-and-coming researchers shattering stereotypes about their fields. Illustrations by Michael McAleer.

Through social media and her podcast, Femmes of STEM, geological sciences grad student Michelle Barboza introduces followers to the history of women in science and explores gender inequality in science, technology, engineering and math.

Biology grad student Adania Flemming's work is part of a long-term goal to bring awareness of marine life to Trinidad and Tobago through outreach and, eventually, a research aquarium.

Verity Mathis, the mammals collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History, fights misconceptions surrounding her research and the collection she's dedicated her career to preserving.

"Everything we know about animals and plants is found in scientific collections," she says.

14) Steven Munger

You might not appreciate your sense of smell until you lose it. Munger, director of the UF Center for Smell and Taste, is leading the charge to help the 16 million Americans with smell impairments severe enough to impact their every day lives. Full story

15+16) Caitlin Hackett and Seth Farris

For these married biologists, wrangling crocodiles in the Everglades is a better date night than dinner and a movie. By checking the health and growth of crocodiles and alligators, they help assess how well Everglades restorations areas are working. Full story

17) Peter Houlihan

Photo courtesy of Ken Pelletier

National Geographic Explorer Peter Houlihan hasn't let pursing his doctorate stand in the way of his conservation work.

“I’ve always had an issue with these linear paths, the path that would have said, ‘Stop doing all the side projects you’re doing. You need to get your undergrad, do your masters, get your Ph.D., do a post doc and get an assistant professorship,’” he says. “There’s great value in people who encourage you to say no to that, and to take on experiences that ultimately make you a better scientist and person.” Full story

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