Wednesday, May 23, 2018

URSP Student Jordan Keller-Martinez Writes a Series of Poems That will be Made into a Handmade Artists Book

My project involves writing a series of poems that will then be made into a handmade artists book. I am choosing to engage with my experiences while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, which I have been reluctant to write about in the past. I am hopeful that this project is the start of a larger body of writing that I can continue as I join Washington University’s MFA program next Fall.

Much of this project’s writing process has been informed through reading. I have most thoroughly studied Susan Howe and Mina Loy, who both radically employ different elements of language to help establish content. They have been integral in focusing my attention on form and structure. I have been mostly considering how association can be worked in different ways, which I am involving mostly through repetition and signification. I am also inspired by C. G. Jung’s Studies in Word Association and other studies in linguistics.  I am especially interested in Saussure’s notion that language is a system of arbitrary signs attached to a sound-image and concept.

In my writing thus far, I have put significant work into developing the form, such as voice, structure, and motifs. I am working a lot to push the image, which comes heavily inspired by Surrealist poetry. The surrealist process of abstraction often illuminates the signifier, sound-image, and concept by distancing each component from the others. This notion of abstraction is evident in Dada conceptual music, Magritte’s word-image concept, and Marcel Duchamp’s experiments with absurd language, such as his 1915 poem “The” which detaches concept from the text signifier. I believe these formal abstraction techniques have been suitable in representing the experiences of being deployed.

I have gone through several mock drafts in the development of the artists book, which I think I have come to a concluding form. The book plays to the form of the poetry, as there will be multiple reading itineraries. I am excited to start finalized the text of the book so I can begin construction.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

URSP Student Lucas Muratore Conducts A Content Analysis of Tearing Among Male Superheroes in Films

My interest in studying crying superheroes started in my Creative Producing for Film class last semester. The class was the first part of a year-long course which would culminate in the completion of our senior films. As an icebreaker, the class discussed things we hadn’t seen in films to spark new ideas. Serendipitously one of my classmates brought up the idea that superheroes never cry, which I had never really considered. Being a communication major who was also looking for a senior research project I pitched the idea to my professor and she loved it. So here we are today, researching crying superheroes.

Long-term I plan on making movies, in what capacity – I’m not entirely sure yet. But I think this research project will hopefully show potential employers that I’m passionate about the entertainment industry and that I care about the kind of messages we’re sending. Who knows – maybe I even end up doing this kind of research for major studios to make sure they’re creating characters who can be strong role models for our next generation of leaders.

On a weekly basis, I watch superhero movies. I’ve got about 18 superhero films I need to code ranging from Tim Burton’s Batman to more recent films like The Guardians of the Galaxy. In addition to coding I’m working closely with my professor to edit my final research paper, reading more articles about representations of masculinity in mainstream media and thinking about ways to analyze my data that can help me draw some conclusions.

One thing that I discovered this semester other than how bad George Clooney is as Batman is that Superman is a cry baby. So far, my fellow coder and I have managed to get through almost all of the Batman and Superman movies. And Superman is almost always driven by these irrational emotions – he literally spins the earth in reverse to save the life of Lois Lane in the Original Superman. Batman on the other hand is extremely reserved and hardly ever expresses any kind of emotion. So DC comics has two extremes here, either your emotions really take control of all of your actions or you pretend like you don’t have any.

Monday, May 21, 2018

URSP Student Summer Claveau Uses the Lens of Existentialism to Examine the Healthcare System

I decided to participate in the OSCAR Undergraduate Research Program this semester in order to better understand a problem with the healthcare system I have noticed and have been struggling with, since I was a GMU Global Health Fellow in 2016. In the Global Health Fellowship, we studied Bioethics, Human Rights, and Global Health Justice, as well as participated in an internship. My internship was with an awesome organization called Stillbrave Childhood Cancer Foundation, which is run be a truly inspiring man, Tattoo Tom. This organization works to provide non-medical support to families who have a child with cancer. This includes providing gas and grocery cards to these families as well as helping families maintain their living situations and support their kids without cancer.

While working with this organization, combined with my studies in the fellowship, I started to question why this incredible nonprofit organization had to provide these services to these families, though I felt these services are due to these people as a function of the healthcare system. I believe that these standard comforts are deserved because these families, and in fact all people who struggle with disease and disability.

As a philosophy major, I decided to approach this question through a lens of existentialism as well as through social justice theories. In this light an argument can be made that because of the lack of day-to-day aid, people who are affected by disease or disability are being structurally oppressed by the healthcare system and the financial burden of illness or disability. This is the basis of my research and the origin of my thought, which has produced the beginning to a paper that includes philosophical analysis as well as arguments for change.

I am very pleased with my results so far! My research mainly consists of reading, and writing. My favorite part of the process is working with my mentors, who have guided me by suggesting various sources and essays, as well as writing advice throughout the vigorous process. I’m excited to have a completed paper that I can use to apply to graduate school, and possibly submit for publication.

Friday, May 18, 2018

URSP Student Linda Azab Develops a Computational Model of Microparticle Interactions for Lyme Disease Detection in Urine

My name is Linda Azab, I am a senior at George Mason University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in
Bioengineering with a concentration in signals and systems. For my OSCAR URSP project I am working on developing a computational model of microparticle interactions for Lyme disease detection in urine. The concept for this project was developed in lieu of one of my professor’s research in micro fluid dynamics. The goal of the project is to detect the presence of early stage Lyme Disease in urine samples. This project is of strategic value for my post-graduate career path in diagnostics research in Biomedical Engineering, and after consulting with my professor of micro-fluid dynamics, Dr. Nitin Agrawal, I believed this research was going to provide me with an invaluable learning opportunity while advancing empirical research. My goal was to use my engineering foundation to advance a career that contributes to the bridge between engineering and medicine, and this project is a significant investment in that long-term commitment. I go to the lab two days a week; in the lab I develop simulations of the urine sample’s potential environment in a software called COMSOL. In the software, I implement different micro fluidics theorems by varying the conditions the sample is in, for example; the temperatures at the top and bottom of the container, the number of particles in the sample, and the container dimensions. One thing I discovered this term is that no matter the level of difficulty of a research project, you still have to devote a significant amount of time and effort to the process in order to yield results.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

URSP Student Damian Cavanagh Learns How to Successfully Design, Troubleshoot, and Report on a Sequence of Experiments

Several experiences over the course of the past two semesters (and summer) have stirred my interest in the project I am working on now. First and foremost, my experiences working in a virology lab over the Summer left me hungry for more wet-lab action. My Summer research project was done in association with the Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program, and centered around the study of South-American viruses similar to the now-infamous Zika virus. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the lab, and so was hoping to embark on a second project.

The other main inspiration was a ‘Phage Genomics’ course that was offered last Fall. This course, taught by Professor Anne Scherer, focused on the software aspects of bacteriophage discovery and classification. Much time was spent analyzing and ‘labeling’ bacteriophage genomes using unique sequencing software. Having worked in a ‘dry-lab’ setting on phage discovery, I was now interested in a more hands-on experience. My current project allows me to develop bacterial and bacteriophage cultures under the (loose) supervision of Dr. Scherer and Professor Charles Madden, and provides me with an opportunity to work semi-independently.

The main goal in undertaking this project is to learn how to successfully design, troubleshoot, and report on a sequence of experiments. In the long term, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in the life sciences, and so will need to develop the skills necessary to manage my own projects with minimal supervision.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about my experience thus far is the amount of time spent on the logistics of ordering and maintaining stocks of bacteria, phages, reagents and equipment. I was previously unaware of how much effort goes into coordinating the exchange of materials, especially living organisms.