Thursday, January 21, 2021

URSP Student Sidney Boakye Conducts a Study on the Surface Degradation of Additively Manufactured (3D-Printed) ABS Polymer for Naval Applications

Additive manufacturing (AM) has recently gained attention due to its ability to transform manufacturing and logistics processes. Additionally, additively manufactured alternatives would provide extra savings and a level of flexibility, especially when it comes to replacement parts, which can not be matched by traditional methods. However, questions remain about the durability of 3D printed components and if trade-offs in durability are worth the cost benefits. My research attempts to tackle these questions by comparing additively manufactured ABS plastic with its traditionally manufactured counterpart. Samples of each would be exposed to an accelerated corrosion environment while being submerged in saltwater. I printed rectangular and dogbone shaped ABS samples and ordered comparable traditional manufactured versions of the same. The rectangular samples were used for wear testing while the dogbone samples were used for tensile testing. Both sample types were placed in containers with varying temperatures (29, 60 and 70 degrees Celsius) and left for 1, 2, and 4-week intervals.

My primary interest is in liquid rocket propulsion. Right now, multiple industries are figuring out ways to better utilize additive manufacturing, including the aerospace industry. Rocket manufacturers are now looking at 3D printing some components. One company, Relativity Space, formed with the goal of 3D printing an entire rocket. 

An average day of research is walking 5 meters from my room to the unoccupied bedroom in my dorm and firing up the 3-D printer. Yes, I am conducting this research in my dorm room. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of adaptions in how students and researcher go about their daily business. This is one of my adaptations. I will test different prints, orientation for printing samples, clean on excess materials, and repeat.  The main adaptation we made was creating the samples in my dorm room and having all the materials purchased for the experiments shipped to my dorm. The next step is to conduct the corrosion test for all the samples.

Friday, January 15, 2021

URSP Student Aditya Pulipaka Studies the Design, Development, and Characterization of 3D Printed PEEK polymer

My research project is the Design, Development, and Characterization of 3D Printed PEEK polymer, which can potentially be utilized in biomedical applications as a solution for defective bone tissue. This project fits into my future plans, as I plan to continue to pursue research for the rest of my undergraduate career. I also plan to pursue a Masters and/or PhD degree. An average research day is researching articles that pertain to our research, as well as printing samples using our 3D printer. Due to Covid, we cannot be in the laboratory as much as we would like for testing, so we are waiting until all the samples are done printing to start the testing phase. So far I have discovered how to use PEEK with a 3D printer, as well as the potential applications that this research could be used for. My project stayed the same during Covid, however the timeline was pushed back. Because we were not in the laboratory, an abundance amount of time was spent searching for new articles and other research that could help us with our manuscript for publishing. The next steps in our research is to finish the 27 horizontal samples and start tribological and mechanical testing. After this, we want to print another 27 samples with a vertical orientation and perform these same tests. Then, the data will be compared and analyzed to determine a correlation, which will eventually lead to publishing of our work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

URSP Student Areej Ali Researches the Advancing Threats to Biometric Data and its Countermeasures

The cyber security industry is currently one of the most rapidly advancing and high-tech industries, it fascinates me to see how many different fields are affected by the discoveries in technological security. As technology has grown ever more prevalent in our society, cyber security has become critical to the safety of the biometrics industry. This digital security is necessary both to ensure the physical safety of society, by protecting sensitive information from unauthorized individuals, and also to ensure the safety and stability of the global population by preventing cyber-attacks upon businesses, organizations, or governments, which can result in devastating losses. Biometric authentication provides a strong factor of security in multi-factor authentication. Biometric data is used in virtually every industry, spanning from healthcare to agriculture, since biometrics are used in everyday tasks such as clock-in stations and basic identification processes. However, not all biometric data is stored in a secure manner. We use biometrics in our daily lives, such as biometric authentication using Face ID or fingerprint touch (in Apple devices) for protection of our data. However, we need to protect the biometric data that we use on our devices. Biometric data is invaluable due to various factors; biometric data is not able to be replicated, replaced, or reproduced and is one of the strongest defenses against modern cyber security attacks.

The expectations of this research project are to examine and learn about the current risks associated with biometric usage as well as possible solutions as the world continues to improve in cyber resilience. The main objectives of this research project are to utilize and incorporate operational/systems research methods to discover vulnerabilities that can leave biometric systems exposed to hackers and to determine realistic changes to prevent cyber-attacks. This research project will also be utilizing methods that are critical to research such as government policies (NIST) and the OSI security model.

I have discovered that the cyber resiliency in many organizations lacks the various tools necessary to protect biometric data from attack agents (hackers) and that it is quite difficult to implement updated technology. One of the reasons why it is hard to implement new technologies is because of widespread legacy systems. Currently, there are insufficient methods to ensure the protection of biometric data, however there are numerous technologies/tools in the works that will help to support the protection of biometric data. There are various biometric data security solutions in the works such as the possible usage of quantum cryptography to ensure higher security and cancellable biometrics. This project plans to address the vulnerabilities in major security tools and provide sustainable countermeasures.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

URSP Student Christopher Veatch Works to Fabricate and Optimize Magnetic Iron Nanorods

This fall, I have been working with Dr. Moran in the GMU mechanical engineering department to fabricate and optimize magnetic iron nanorods for use in medicine, delivering drugs directly to tumors (alleviating the issues associated with traditional chemotherapy). As expected, COVID-19 has presented roadblocks to acquiring materials from distributors and spending time in the lab, but that has not stopped the lab’s research completely. My goal is to develop the apparatus to mass-produce iron nanorods and optimize the process for coating them in polyethylene glycol (PEG). The rods are grown through a process known as electrodeposition which resembles making a batch of cupcakes. First, an aqueous solution containing iron ions fills the cylindrical nanopores of a membrane. The diameter of the pores is the same as the diameter of the eventual rods, and these pores are tiny – about 1/10000th the diameter of a human hair. The membrane serves as our “muffin pan.” The “baking” process occurs when an electric charge is sent through the membrane which reduces the iron in solution into its neutral, solid state. Slowly, the “cupcakes” grow in solid metal form. Removing these iron cupcakes from their membrane pan is achieved by dissolving it and the product is thousands of magnetic iron nanorods. The “toppings” can be any drug that can be loaded on to treat diseases such as cancer. The PEG layer “lubricates” the rods so they can move through tissues more efficiently.

So far, I have aided with the design of the experiment and facilitated contact with suppliers and vendors to acquire materials and ensure our setup would work. I also helped Dr. Moran in preparing figures and graphics related to grant proposals. This semester presented many challenges in the form of COVID-19 but this project allowed me to learn a great deal about myself and my future goals. Throughout this project, I realized that I am far more interested in optimizing the process for creating iron nanorods than I am interested in their potential uses, which is the opposite of what I expected before beginning research.

Friday, January 8, 2021

URSP Student Evalise Pacheco Studies if Hispanic and Latinx Students Feel Racially and Ethnically Included in Higher Education

My name is Evalise Pacheco, I am a junior at George Mason and this is my first semester getting involved in research. I’ve been interested in conducting qualitative research ever since I started a Mason. As an Honors student one of the first courses I took taught me how to formulate a research question and as a Criminology student, I had a particular interest in understanding inequality. I took courses that focused on inequality, discrimination, and more until I came to a course that focused on inequality in higher education, and the rest was history. Drawn by my own experiences as a Latina, I was curious to see how other Latinx students may have experienced the diversity at Mason and so I submitted a proposal to OSCAR URSP. My specific research question is, do Hispanic and Latinx students feel racially and ethnically included in higher education?

When I submitted this proposal the expectation was to conduct in-person interviews. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was no longer an option. Therefore, for the protection of all participants, I transitioned my interviews to be conducted virtually through Zoom. Surprisingly enough, there are a lot of things that virtual interviews have made easier, for example the distribution of gift cards to participants, the audio and visual recording aspect and even the ability to schedule the interviews. I am both grateful and fortunate that my research has not been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but I can say this was not how I expected my research to be conducted. Regardless, my research has been continuing at a good pace and I am close to completing all my interviews. The next step in my research is to finish transcription of the interviews and analyze them through a process of open coding. After coding is completed, I hope to use analytical memos to look for patterns across the interviewees as a way of understanding similarities and differences in the experiences of Hispanic and Latinx students.