Honors Student Places First In Research Essay Competition

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Kelly van Woesik receives first-place award for her research essay at the Florida Collegiate Honors Council’s annual conference.

Kelly van Woesik, a biomathematics junior and honors college inductee, won first prize in the Florida Collegiate Honors Council (FCHC) writing competition for her research essay. “Preserving Life in ‘Planet Ocean’: Optimal Systems of Governance with Examples from Around the World” received first place in the Junior/Senior Documented Research or Critical Thinking category at the FCHC’s annual conference, which was themed “SoFloMind: Reclaiming Hope and Change.”

Kelly’s passion for all things aquatic stems from being raised in Melbourne Beach. She loves swimming and surfing, and this year, she became the founding president of Florida Tech Swim Club. She is also a certified rescue and scientific scuba diver and member of three honor societies: Phi Eta Sigma, of which she is treasurer-elect; Phi Kappa Phi; and Tri-Beta biological society.

In summer 2019, Kelly completed a 5-week internship at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado. Within the Earth System Research Laboratory Global Monitoring Division, Kelly developed a deeper understanding of climate processes and learned many data analysis skills.

Her career goal: “Continue being a part of the research and conservation efforts that help better understand and preserve the natural world,” she says.

(From left to right) Top row: Assistant Professor Brooke Wheeler, Kayla Decker, Assistant Professor Matthew Ruane, Honors College Assistant Vice President Lisa Perdigao
Bottom row: Dylan Barnes, Martine Fredrickson, Sam Kaynor, Kelly van Woesik, Caroline Sisko, Joshua Weissman

The FCHC is a community of Floridian institutions with undergraduate honors programs. Every year, the FCHC conference provides educational, presentation and networking opportunities for students.

“The conference involved a writing contest, an art contest, workshops and roundtable discussions, a poster session and multiple breakout sessions, where students presented either about their research or other topics,” Kelly says.

This year, 15 institutions attended the conference, including seven students and three professors from Florida Tech’s Honors College. In addition to Kelly’s presentation, Florida Tech students Kayla Decker and Dylan Barnes presented about black holes and the new Honors College living learning community, respectively.

“[My essay] provides an overview about the history of ocean governance, marine protected areas and conservation initiatives. It also evaluates different examples of collaboration and successful conservation governance,” Kelly says. “Additionally, it discusses both the importance of compliance enforcement and having institutions to address disputes, and how the United States is responding to global initiatives.”

The essay looks at the Technology for Tuna Transparency Challenge in the Pacific islands and explains how successful initiatives have been carried out in Australia.

Long-term sustainability and the threat of overfishing, pollution and climate change are what inspired Kelly to conduct her research essay. She wanted to work on something that could have a positive impact on the world, so she analyzed and evaluated optimal systems of governance.

“The oceans empower me to make a difference in the world—to give a voice to something that cannot talk but that has so much to say.”

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