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Dr. Luciana Garbayo

Through mentorship, Dr. Luciana Garbayo transforms students’ learning experiences.

Students of Dr. Luciana Garbayo get more than a lecturing professor. They get a research partner, a collaborator and a highly engaged mentor.

“I love working with students,” says Garbayo, assistant professor, College of Medicine. “The authentic desire to learn and the openness for self-discovery are integrated in the transformative path of the college student. It is invigorating to develop research together—it amplifies the learning experience for all involved.”

Garbayo’s focus on students was recognized recently when she was named the first-ever recipient of the Florida Undergraduate Research Association’s (FURA) Faculty Mentor of the Year award. This award was announced during the welcome event at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC) on Feb. 21. UCF undergraduates also presented their research at the conference.

The FURA Faculty Mentor of the Year award is given based on nominations from student researchers. The committee looked for evidence that the faculty member fostered students’ academic and professional growth, but also served a mentor, helping them overcome obstacles and mature as students.

Garbayo was nominated by Jacob Howard, a biomedical sciences honors student, who is minoring in Philosophy as well as Cultural and Religious Studies. Howard’s research has focused on ethics of surgery as well as medical error.

“Dr. Garbayo is the biggest reason I think choosing UCF was the best decision I’ve made in my life so far,” Howard says. “I’ve had friends who have chosen other Florida and out-of-state universities for undergraduate studies. When I compare our experiences, I cannot think of anyone who has been able to say they found a mentor as kind, knowledgeable, passionate and important for their personal growth as I have.”

Howard is not the only UCF student who has benefited from Garbayo’s mentorship. She is working with several students on a range of research projects focused on various aspects of medical ethics, the philosophy of medicine and medical decision-making.

Garbayo was also part of one of the teams that won the 2018 Pabst Steinmetz Foundation Arts & Wellness Innovation Awards. The teams, comprising faculty members from across UCF and the Central Florida community, were each awarded $25,000 for their cross-disciplinary, community-focused and sustainable arts and wellness projects. Garbayo recently guest-edited Synthese’s “Medical Knowledge in a Social World” Special Edition

Garbayo, as well as some of the students she mentored, participated on a team that developed a project that demonstrated how the literary and performing arts can be used to improve elderly wellbeing.

Looking forward, Garbayo says undergraduate and graduate students will have additional opportunities to collaborate amongst themselves through a ‘collaborative lab’ that is being developed between her appointments in the College of Arts and Humanities and the College of Medicine.

Further, Garbayo and several of her students will present at the upcoming UNESCO Medical Ethics and Law World Conference in Portugal. For instance, Howard will be presenting on the ethics of robotic surgery.

“It feels very exciting as it is my first time out of the country,” Howard says. “I hope not only to take away professional and presentation skills, but also important connections to others who may be performing similar research and work that I can bring back to UCF, as well as soak up the culture in Portugal. It’s extremely exciting to have an opportunity like this so early on in my academic career, and it is only possible because of Dr. Garbayo.”

For Garbayo’s part, she points out that successful mentoring relationship is a two-way street. Her advice to mentees to get the most out of the experience is to “align your sense of self-discovery with your intellectual curiosity.”

“Enjoy collaborating, honor everyone’s path and be open to being challenged,” Garbayo says. “Cultivate a growth mindset and expect the ‘unknown unknowns’ as you go.”