Larry Langebrake, director of SRI St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Marine District focus of next USFSP Walgreens Bayside Business Forum

Larry Langebrake, director of SRI St. Petersburg, will discuss the future of downtown St. Petersburg’s Marine District during the next Walgreens Bayside Business Forum sponsored by the USF St. Petersburg College of Business.

Langebrake will share some exciting news about the future of this important industry cluster near USF St. Petersburg and how it will gain even more prominence on the local, national, and global stage in coming years.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held Friday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 a.m. at Franklin Templeton, 100 Fountain Parkway North, Building 100, St. Petersburg. Seating is limited so please reserve your spot by December 11 by calling 727-873-4700 or e-mailing

“A world-class collection of businesses, government agencies and other institutions surround USF St. Petersburg that are devoted to marine science, oceanographic, and environmental research,’’ said USFSP College of Business Dean Maling Ebrahimpour. “SRI St. Petersburg is a major player in this important business sector and we are pleased that Larry Langebrake has agreed to share his insights about its role in the Tampa Bay economy.”

The Walgreens Bayside Business Forum is presented by the Dean’s Advisory Council of the College of Business at University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The series focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations that are shaping Florida’s business future.


Left to right: Premed students Everett Rogers, Keun Young Jo, Jordan McBride and Erik Richardson talk to a patient. Photo courtesy All Children's Hospital.

Premed Club program at All Children’s Hospital provides comfort to cystic fibrosis patients

Erik Richardson had thought about a career in medicine but wasn’t sure until he went on a mission trip to a health clinic in Guatemala three years ago.

“Being able to help a child one on one is really what made me want to be a doctor,’’ said Richardson, a USF St. Petersburg senior majoring in biology who hopes to attend the USF Morsani College of Medicine next year. “Up until then I never had interacted with a patient. I discovered how rewarding it was.”

The experience inspired him to start Premed Pals, a volunteer program of the student Premed Club that sends USFSP students to All Children’s Hospital to work with young cystic fibrosis patients. He had worked as a volunteer in the hospital’s outpatient pharmacy and wanted to create volunteer opportunities for Premed Club members to give them experiences similar to what he had in Guatemala.

The student volunteers, most of whom hope to become doctors, learn how to interact with real patients in a real hospital setting. And the patients, who range in age from infants to teenagers, look forward to the visits. The patients’ families also appreciate getting a break.

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease affecting the lungs and digestive system. About 30,000 children and adults in the United States are affected by the inherited disease, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The disease clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening infections.

The patients at All Children’s stay in isolation for up to two weeks at a time for treatment a couple of times a year to clear their lungs. “They call it ‘tune-ups,’’ said Richardson, president of the Premed Club. “They get bored sitting in their room.”

The student volunteers will do whatever they can to take a patient’s mind off things, said Everett Rogers, the volunteer coordinator for the Premed club. They play Legos, board games, video games or just watch TV — whatever the patients want to do. “I’ve sat there for an hour watching Dragon Ball Z just to be with them,’’ said Rogers. “We’ll get on the floor and play dolls with them. It’s been pretty incredible for me.’’

Richardson agrees. “To get them up and out of bed and participating in these activities is so rewarding,’’ he said.

Frank Biafora, dean of the USFSP College of Arts and Sciences, praised the volunteer efforts. “These students are great examples of community leadership at its best,’’ he said. “They are not only helping these vulnerable children, they are learning invaluable lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Hospital officials say the students have been a great asset for the cystic fibrosis program. “Erik is a person with a lot of passion and compassion, and his dedication in putting this program together with all the demands on his time is very impressive,’’ said Brittany Nelms, All Children’s Hospital Volunteer Services Coordinator. “He started as a volunteer and now he’s coordinating the whole program, so that other USFSP premed students can participate and help give a lift to our CF patients. We really appreciate everything he’s done.”

The program started in June with 16 volunteers working twice a week. It has been so successful Richardson hopes to grow it with more volunteers covering more days of the week.

Because of the risk of infection, each volunteer must be specially trained in sterile techniques before they can begin working with patients. They learn when and where to use surgical masks and what patients can and cannot touch. They must wear sterile gowns when they are with patients. And the patients cannot hang out with each other.

“They’re kids and they don’t like being in a room for two weeks at a time,’’ said Rogers, a junior who started at USF St. Petersburg but transferred to USF Tampa this year to pursue a chemical engineering degree. “It’s kind of rough. They get bored sitting in the room.’’ The patients are always happy to see the USFSP student volunteers.

“They love it and you can see it in their faces,’’ Richardson said. But the premed students also learn a sobering reality: They are not miracle workers. “Some days you feel bad for the kids,’’ he said. “Other times you feel so rewarded.”

“You have to accept that you can’t always do something for somebody,’’ Rogers added. But that’s just part of the learning process, he said. In the end, everyone wins.

“It helps the hospital, it helps us, it helps the kids,’’ Rogers said.

Walgreens Bayside Business Forum to focus on disabilities in the workplace

Learn the best practices for integrating persons with disabilities in the workplace during the next Walgreens Bayside Business Forum on Friday, Nov. 22, at 7:30 a.m. sponsored by the USF St. Petersburg College of Business. It is free and open to the public.

Titled “The Long Road: Employment for Persons with Disabilities,” the event will feature

JR Harding, Ed.D., of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities. He is a two-time presidential appointee, seven-time Florida gubernatorial appointee, author of the book Now What, and a recognized international disability expert.

JR Harding, Ed.D., of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

JR Harding, Ed.D., of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

Dr. Harding has testified numerous times before the U.S. Congress and the Florida Legislature, resulting in an increase in independence and self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities. During the Business Forum, he will explain his personal journey to emphasize the challenges of self-sufficiency and the tools he used that could be helpful to others.

“Sustainability of our communities requires that we have better success in the field of disability integration,” said Maling Ebrahimpour, Ph.D., Dean of the USFSP College of Business. “This is an important topic and we are fortunate to have Dr. Harding explain the challenges and rewards of hiring persons with disabilities.”

The forum will be at Franklin Templeton, 100 Fountain Parkway N, St. Petersburg. Continental breakfast and coffee will be served. Seating is limited, so reservations are requested. To RSVP, please call (727) 873-4700 or email

The Walgreens Bayside Business Forum is presented by the Dean’s Advisory Council of the USFSP College of Business and focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations shaping Florida’s business future. It is sponsored by Walgreens and Franklin Templeton Investments.

Agata Tuszynska, author of Vera Gran: The Accused. Photo by Patrycja Makowska

Sembler Florida Holocaust Lecture to feature author discussing controversial Polish singer, ‘The Accused’

Vera Gran was one of the most famous singers in Poland when the Nazis invaded and sent her to the Warsaw ghetto and eventually to the Treblinka concentration camp, only to spend the rest of her life fighting accusations that she was a Nazi collaborator.

Gran’s story will be recounted by Polish author Agata Tuszynska on Nov. 18 at 3:30 p.m. in the Debbie and Brent Sembler Florida Holocaust Museum Lecture at the USF St. Petersburg University Student Center Ballroom, 200 6th Ave. S. The lecture, presented by the USFSP Honors Program, is free and open to the public.

During the lecture, Tuszynska will discuss her book, Vera Gran: The Accused, and play recordings of Gran’s musical performances.

The Boston Globe called The Accused “a book of extraordinary depth and power that sets one tormented individual on a lifelong struggle across the moral cloudland.”

Before World War II, Gran performed at theaters and cabarets across Poland. During the war she was forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, where she often performed with Wladyslaw Szpilman, whose memoir was the basis for the film “The Pianist.” Both were eventually sent to Treblinka, the Nazi concentration camp. Szpilman was among those who later accused Gran of being a collaborator, though he later recanted. Two official inquiries cleared Gran, but the stain persisted until her death in 2007.

Tuszynska’s book sheds new light on a neglected chapter in history, said Elizabeth Gelman, executive director of the Florida Holocaust Museum.

“Much research has been done and disseminated on events during the Holocaust, but there is less written about the struggle for reconciliation in the wake of mass violence,’’ said Gelman. “Vera’s story is fascinating, raising philosophical questions about choices and the price of survival. It’s also chock full of intrigue, suspicion and paranoia.”

Vivian Fueyo, Ph.D., Interim Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, said USFSP is proud to partner with the Florida Holocaust Museum for this lecture series. “This promises to be a thoughtful, provocative lecture and we thank Debbie and Brent Sembler for their support,” she said.

Thomas Smith, Ph.D., director of the USFSP Honors Program, said the lecture will benefit both students and the general public. “We are pleased we can present an author with the reputation of Agata Tuszynska,” he said. “Her talk goes to the heart of what the Honors Program is all about – to deepen our understanding of complex issues.”

The Honors Program at USF St. Petersburg is now in its 20th year of offering academically gifted, highly motivated students an exceptional undergraduate education. A distinguished faculty guides special seminars and lectures and provide Honors students with an array of research opportunities culminating in an original senior thesis.

Learn more about the Honors Program.

USF St. Petersburg students demonstrate how to create electricity from chlorophyll at last year's St. Petersburg Science Festival.

St. Petersburg Science Festival returning to USF St. Petersburg

The Third Annual St. Petersburg Science Festival, the largest community celebration of science in the Southeast, returns to USF St. Petersburg on Saturday, Oct. 19 with more than 100 hands-on exhibits along Bayboro Harbor.

Once again this year, USF St. Petersburg science students and faculty will present exhibits and research, including a hydrogen-fueled model car, chlorophyll solar cells and creating bio-diesel from waste oil.

The festival, held in conjunction with MarineQuest, drew more than 10,000 people last year. This year’s event includes an exclusive sneak peek for more than 1,000 school children on Friday, Oct. 18.

Saturday’s festival begins at 10 a.m. with an explosive science experiment on stage at Poynter Park at 10 a.m., led by USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and USF College of Marine Science Dean Jacqueline Dixon.

Along with a full day of science shows and music, the festival will feature activities ranging from crazy chemistry experiments to fighting robots. Visitors can board a research vessel, build a fire, run an underwater remotely operated vehicle, peer into a microscope at aquatic animals and archaeological artifacts, escape fishing nets, test an artificial limb, create art from science and launch a rocket.

USFSP’s exhibits will be coordinated by Madhu Pandey, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of chemistry, and will include student research on manatees, molecular modeling and crime scene analysis.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase from USF St. Petersburg restaurants including The Reef, World of Wings, The Tavern at Bayboro and the Campus Grind. Food trucks will line 3rd Street South at Poynter Park. View campus maps.

The festival was created to encourage youth to develop a passion for science and engineering. It is a collaboration of more than 60 university departments, government agencies and private organizations, many of which are part of the St. Petersburg Ocean Team, a consortium of research groups employing more than 1,600 marine scientists in St. Petersburg.

Major sponsors include USF St. Petersburg, the City of St. Petersburg, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the USF College of Marine Science, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Helios Education Foundation, Duke Energy, Eckerd College, Draper Laboratory, Rays Baseball Foundation,, and Science Festival Alliance. Media partners include Bay News 9, CBS Radio, Tampa Bay Times, WEDU, and WMNF 88.5 FM.

For more information go to, email Science Festival Co-Chair Howard Rutherford or call him at (727) 803-9799, ext. 202.