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Amy Lebanoff, a mechanical engineering student at UCF, has the TV show Mythbusters to thank for her passion for engineering and biology.

She always admired the Discovery Channel program because the hosts make science engaging, educational and accessible.

“That’s a sure-fire recipe for making a positive impact,” says Lebanoff, a Jacksonville native.

When she joined a robotics club at her high school, it further fueled her curiosity and set her on the path she is today.

Making a difference is part of why she conducts research at UCF. She has participated in UCF’s Showcase of Undergraduate Research held during Research Week and discipline-specific conferences in the past. She studies fluid dynamics, which for her current project translates into researching how raindrops impact pine needles.

“We are hoping to learn exactly how the foliage protects the trees, surrounding plants and the overall environment,” she says. “If we can figure out this interaction, then perhaps engineers can learn to mimic it.”

The research is basic at this point, but someday perhaps a technology that mimics this behavior could be developed to protect homes, businesses and other sensitive places like power plants from harsh weather elements.

Lebanoff conducts most of her research in the Fluids and Structures (FaST) Lab, led by engineering Assistant Professor Andrew Dickerson.

She says doing research is about making an impact on the community. It also provides undergraduates with great opportunities such as learning to present in front of professional organizations, traveling to new places and publishing all while still a college kid.

Her advice for fellow students – take advantage of all the opportunities UCF provides including study abroad and Student Research Week. It’s a week that offers free workshops, an opportunity to present research in person and to do so via posters.

“Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself; that’s when you learn,” she says.