Student Profile

Karla Badillo-Urquiola

Karla Badillo-Urquiola received both her bachelor’s in Psychology and master’s in Modeling and Simulation from UCF. The endless opportunities and unforgettable experiences she had as an undergraduate led her to continue her studies on through the PhD program. What she likes most about the Modeling and Simulation program is its flexibility, from participating in courses in different departments to learning new skills and collaborating with professors outside her primary discipline.

Many faculty members influenced Badillo-Urquiola’s academic career. “Dr. Pamela Wisniewski, my dissertation advisor, inspires me every day to always stay motivated, to reach for my goals and be a better scientist,” she states. Other inspirational mentors include Michael Aldarondo-Jeffries, Director of the UCF McNair Program, Professor Maria Redmon, and Fernando Rivera, PhD. Badillo-Urquiola’s research aims to understand the risky online behaviors of foster teens, as well as develop an intervention strategy that may facilitate healthier online behaviors.

During her time at UCF, Badillo-Urquiola has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the McNair and McKnight Fellowships for academic excellence and the Modeling and Simulation Knights Humanitarian Award for volunteer efforts within the modeling and simulation community. She has also served as President of the Modeling and Simulation Knights.

Badillo-Urquiola will complete her doctorate in 2020 and will pursue a career in academia. Her ultimate goal is to serve in an administrative position at a university.

Oddny Brun

Oddny Brun earned Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and Nursing, followed by a master’s in applied mathematics in Norway. It was during her master’s program that Brun developed an appreciation for the importance of modeling and simulation as a tool to achieve understanding and improvements for many different fields, from medicine and manufacturing to defense and logistics. She came to UCF, earning a second master’s in Modeling and Simulation then went on to the doctoral program. 

Brun appreciates the unique opportunity she has to contribute to the scientific community by combining the resources represented by UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training and her own multidisciplinary background. Her current research focuses on models with the potential to improve surgical training, predicting the outcome of miscellaneous natural catastrophic events such as flooding, something that hopefully will lead to saving lives and reducing the consequences of such events. She is also grateful for the support and guidance of the faculty, including Marianna Pensky, PhD, Paul Wiegand. PhD, Joseph Kider, PhD, and John Kincaid, PhD who all played a role in her success within the M&S program.

Brun graduates in spring 2019 and intends to continue doing research and bringing valuable contributions to the scientific community as well as the business world.

Chathika Gunaratne

After earning his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Colombo School of Computing in Sri Lanka, Chathika Gunaratne spent several years in the industry as a serious games developer, developing military training simulations. His interest in crowd modeling and simulation led Gunaratne to UCF where he completed his master’s in Modeling and Simulation in 2015 and is now enrolled in the doctoral program. What he enjoys most about the program is its multidisciplinary nature, being able to study real world problems in a variety of contexts from biological systems to social networks.

In UCF’s Complex Adaptive Systems Lab under Ivan Garibay, PhD, Gunaratne is conducting research using geographical information systems and agent-based modeling to estimate the populations of Aedes aegypti (the primary vector of Dengue, Zika and Chikungunya) in a given geographical location. “This work will help us to understand the large scale impact of various vector control techniques that can help stop mosquito-borne diseases from spreading,” he explains.

In 2015, Gunaratne received the Presentation Fellowship award from the College of Graduate Studies. He is also a graduate mentor for the L.E.A.R.N. program which seeks to provide undergraduate students with graduate mentoring to enhance their research capabilities. He intends to complete his doctorate by spring 2018 and will continue working as a research scientist, hopefully at a research institution studying complex systems. 

Avonie Parchment

Avonie L. Parchment grew up in the central Florida area. Although she went away for her undergraduate degree at Rutgers University, Parchment found UCF's Modeling and Simulation program to have all the elements she desired in a graduate degree. Grounded in research and with the flexibility to structure the program at the Institute for Simulation and Training, a M&S degree is exactly what Parchment feels will propel her into her career.

Her research, under the advisement of R. Paul Wiegand, PhD, will not only provide a needed leg up in future data analysis during human performance experiments, but will, in effect, make data collection less wasteful. “Future researchers may have a better understanding of participant data after analysis if the technique I’m developing is used,” she explains.

When reflecting on memorable professors, Parchment had many members of the UCF community to praise. Lauren Reinerman-Jones, PhD pulled Ms. Parchment into the world of research. "Being able to cut my teeth on a few experiments resulted in a few international presentations that eventually led to the subject matter of my current avenue of research." Of her mentor, Dr. Weigand, she states, “He took me under his wing, supported my ideas, helped me find answers, and basically changed my way of thinking about a problem. He especially helped me realize that before you try to solve a problem, you must have answerable questions (even originally impossible ones).”

Parchment is excited about the future and the solutions she will find.

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