HOBI students present at Florida Undergraduate Research Conference

HOBI research assistants present research at FURC
Nisha Chachad (left) and Hailey Ballard presented their posters at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC) in Orlando.

HOBI undergraduate research assistants Nisha Chachad and Hailey Ballard presented their research related to factors affecting maternal health outcomes at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC). The conference was held on Feb. 18 and 19 at the University of Central Florida’s main campus in Orlando.

FURC is one of the nation’s largest multi-disciplinary research conferences open to all undergraduate researchers in Florida. It offers students networking opportunities with fellow researchers and graduate programs across the country, as well as workshops and other professional development experiences.

Chachad and Ballard were awarded research scholarships through the UF University Scholars Program. This program introduces undergraduate students at UF to academic research by providing opportunities for them to work one-on-one with UF faculty on selected projects.

The two research assistants worked alongside their faculty mentor, HOBI assistant professor Dominick Lemas, Ph.D., using data from his K01 mentored research project. Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, this 5-year research project examines how human milk and exclusive breastfeeding during the first year of a child’s life may protect against childhood obesity.

Chachad’s research, titled “The Impact of Maternal Pre-Pregnancy Body Mass Index on Resilience to Perinatal Stress,” explores how obesity during pregnancy affects different mental health factors, such as self-perception of social status. Ballard’s research, “Geography Matters: The Impact of Healthcare Access on Maternal Breastfeeding Confidence,” aims to assist healthcare providers in identifying mothers who may be at-risk for lowered breastfeeding confidence and provide them with additional resources to encourage better breastfeeding habits.