Monday, June 12, 2017

URSP Student Kaitlyn Scott Researches How to Optimize Physicochemical Properties of Patchy Particles for Cancer Therapeutics and Imaging

Hi, I am Kaitlyn Scott, a senior Bioengineering student. My research project aims to optimize the therapeutic and imaging performance of Polymeric Patchy Particles (PPPs) by assessing in
vitro their efficacy and toxicity, and to validate Computational Fluid Dynamic simulation (CFD) results. Use of PPPs can advance cancer theranostics by reducing the multidrug resistance phenomenon. From their photoacoustic signal physicians will benefit by being able to visualize and monitor the drug distribution in cancer cells and make decisions to continue, adjust, or change treatment based on the real-time image capability. Furthermore, CFD from this research project will provide information on particle synthesis and help control the self-assembly process to speed up the clinical development of PPPs.

I began working as an undergraduate research assistant in the lab of nanotechnology at George Mason after I became inspired by my Nanotechnology in Health Professor, Dr. Carolina Salvador-Morales.  I was intrigued by the kind of work done in her lab and how something smaller than the tip of a single strand of hair could be engineered to combat disease, such as cancer. I’ve learned a great deal under the mentorship of Dr. Salvador-Morales that will carry over into my future career. She encourages me to be creative when approaching problems at the molecular level and to look to nature to inspire us.

This project has shown me that the smallest thing can make the biggest impact. I’ve learned about the obstacles that a drug delivery system needs to overcome before clinical trials can begin. On a weekly basis I am doing bench work at the lab synthesizing polymeric nanoparticles for use in cancer theranostics. I also attend weekly meetings to keep up to date with other projects that are ongoing in the nanotechnology lab.

Friday, June 9, 2017

URSP Student Rownaq Abidalrahim Conducts Next-Generation Sequencing



I have always been interested in the sciences. Ever since I was a child, I have grown to love all things science. In high school, I graduated with a Biotechnology Diploma and an Advanced Studies Diploma. I was interested in Next-Generation Sequencing the Fall of 2016 at George Mason University. My professor, Dr. Reid Schwebach, was my Biology 213 professor. He was very knowledgeable and kind to his students. I decided to stop by his office one afternoon. I showed him a short Protein Structure video I made and posted on YouTube. He loved it. He told me to join him and his team of researchers for his Next-Generation Sequencing project via OSCAR. I was assigned to create 5 videos regarding NGS. I can see my OSCAR research helping me to reach my long-term goals. I wish to pursue a medical career. I want to stand out to medical schools, so doing more STEM research will help me immensely. On a weekly basis, I work hard. First, every Tuesday at 12:00 pm, I have a meeting with my mentors. We discuss what the next video is going to entail, and how I should design them. For the first video, I provided them a script, an audio, and some graphical assets in one meeting. They provide me their critiques, and I adjust accordingly.  Then, I go home, and use Adobe Suites. Here, I slowly create my videos with the magic of video editing. My audios are recorded in a soundproof room to ensure crisp sounds only. I add the audio to the video whilst I edit. One thing I discovered this term was how to crunch a large amount of information into a span of 4-5 minutes. These videos are educational, and each video packs lot of information. I have learned to summarize, explain, and illustrate information in a short amount of time. Creating my videos takes hours of work, but every minute is worth it.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

URSP Student Roberto Vargas Conducts Research to Understand the Relationship between GMU Students and Current Food Culture

My name is Roberto Vargas, and I am a full-time student at George Mason University double-majoring in economics and environmental sustainability studies with a concentration in sustainable agriculture. I have spent my entire academic and professional career focusing on the advancement of
sustainability projects in the field of agriculture. My OSCAR research project is no different, it is focused on food, farming, and collegiate institutions. I have always been interested in how areas in urban areas can be  both simultaneously “food deserts” and yet also “food swamps”. I was fortunate to connect with Dr. Kerri LaCharite, who has years’ experience working in sustainable food movements. We both bonded over the idea about how to transform the college food experience.

I want to use my research as a catalyst to transform food on campus to benefit students. I want to use the skills learned from the experience and the incredible Dr. Kerri LaCharite. I also hope to continue working on research like this.

My research focuses on understanding the relationship between George Mason students and the current food culture. I developed a George Mason student survey, so that I could better understand overall student knowledge of sustainable food programs already happening on campus, e.g. GMU Organic Gardening Association and Pop-Up Pantry. I wanted to create a survey that was both informational for both myself and students on campus. I was surprised to learn that many students on campus were unsure of current programs but also felt helpless to make changes in the procurement of campus dining. Initially, I focused my attention on various successful programs on other college campuses. I then met with key stake-holders, including faculty and dining staff to better understand the areas that need improvement and how to continue to make institutional changes on campus. I am looking forward to the opportunity to continue to conduct research in this area and for George Mason University becoming more sustainable in their food policy practices and procurement for campus dining.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

URSP Student Stephanie Bishop Conducts Research on the Impact of Job Skills Training Programs in Guatemala

My name is Stephanie Bishop and I am a Global Affairs and Spanish major graduating this May 2017. This semester I conducted a research project on the impact of job skills training programs in Guatemala. I have always had a passion for global development issues and throughout my college career have developed an even stronger passion for the Latin American region and culture that made me interested in conducting a research project of my own in these fields. Central America is a super complex and interesting region in terms of development and growth because there is so much potential and yet so many obstacles. Guatemala in particular is a country that severely lacks educational and employment opportunities and faces issues with discrimination, violence, and low economic diversity. These gaps obviously attract the work of NGOs and I wanted to see what kinds of impacts these organizations were creating. This type of research and analysis of development
strategies is what I would love to do in a future career. I also want to focus my career path on working with Latin American countries and have tried to pursue academic and professional experiences that complement that, which is why I am so grateful for the opportunity that URSP provided me.

My weekly work varied quite a bit during the course of the semester. During the first month and half or so, I was working on conducting background research on the issues affecting Guatemala’s workforce. I was also working on planning the week that I spent in Guatemala conducting field research, interviewing NGO employees, and talking with participants of job skills training programs. The trip itself took place at the end of February into early March. Then, after the trip, I compiled the data, observations, and information from my interviews to make an analysis of the programs and to write a report on my findings.

This research project has been one of my college experiences that I am most proud of and I reaffirmed my passion for global development. I learned an immeasurable amount about myself as a researcher, the complexity of implementing development projects, and how incredibly rewarding it is to conduct original research to add to your field’s body of knowledge.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

URSP Student Rownaq Abidalrahim Creates Videos for the Next-Generation Sequencing Project


I have always been interested in the sciences. Ever since I was a child, I have grown to love all things science. In high school, I graduated with a Biotechnology Diploma and an Advanced Studies Diploma. I was interested in Next-Generation Sequencing the Fall of 2016 at George Mason University. My professor, Dr. Reid Schwebach, was my Biology 213 professor. He was very knowledgeable and kind to his students. I decided to stop by his office one afternoon. I showed him a short Protein Structure video I made and posted on YouTube. He loved it. He told me to join him and his team of researchers for his Next-Generation Sequencing project via OSCAR. I was assigned to create 5 videos regarding NGS. I can see my OSCAR research helping me to reach my long-term goals. I wish to pursue a medical career. I want to stand out to medical schools, so doing more STEM research will help me immensely. On a weekly basis, I work hard. First, every Tuesday at 12:00 pm, I have a meeting with my mentors. We discuss what the next video is going to entail, and how I should design them. For the first video, I provided them a script, an audio, and some graphical assets in one meeting. They provide me their critiques, and I adjust accordingly.  Then, I go home, and use Adobe Suites. Here, I slowly create my videos with the magic of video editing. My audios are recorded in a soundproof room to ensure crisp sounds only. I add the audio to the video whilst I edit. One thing I discovered this term was how to crunch a large amount of information into a span of 4-5 minutes. These videos are educational, and each video packs lot of information. I have learned to summarize, explain, and illustrate information in a short amount of time. Creating my videos takes hours of work, but every minute is worth it.