Thursday, April 30, 2015

URSP Student Highlights: Elizabeth Esser


As a psychology student, I have always been interested in cognition and the neural basis of thought. Each and every person thinks about the world differently and has a unique perspective. This concept reaches into every aspect of our daily lives without us even recognizing it. One hot topic in today’s society is racial bias; it has most recently popped up in the news in cases of racial profiling with important and far-reaching implications.

For my URSP research project, I am investigating the existence of ingroup/outgroup racial biases through the measurement of delayed disengagement from dissimilar others. I am using eyetracking technology to record the length of reaction times made in response to faces belonging to three different races: White, Black, and Middle Easter. Alongside the eyetracking task, I am using two Implicit Association Tests and questionnaire that I designed particularly for this study to ascertain participants’ pre-existing attitudes and associations as well as their ethnic origins and the extent of their exposure to diversity. I hope to use these measures to shed light on the basis of racial biases and prejudice, and to someday use the findings in an effort to limit its presence in the world.

I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to conduct my own research investigation here at George Mason University, especially in an area that is so interesting and relevant to today’s society at large as well as to the diverse Mason community. While on a daily basis, research is not a particularly glamorous endeavor, with much of my work revolving around collecting eyetracking and survey data from participants and conducting statistical analyses, it is exciting and meaningful. Research expands our understanding of the world; it enriches our lives and produces solutions for problems that have plagued society since the beginning of time. OSCAR has given me the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than any one person or organization. It is a privilege to be a part of this scholarly environment, and I can’t wait to add to the world’s knowledge through this program.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Luisa Villatoro

This semester I began to work with Dr. Gaffney and other scholars on a maternal-child equity study. On a weekly basis I attend Inova Cares Clinic for Children and conduct interviews, while I also have the opportunity to shadow doctors and nurses. My job entails checking if the patient is eligible for the study, going over consent forms, administering the survey, and helping improve the survey. The purpose of this study is to assess the risk factors that cause obesity in Latino infants. The possible risk factors that are being assessed include: feeding practices, mother’s wellbeing, food insecurity, infant physical activity, and amount of sleep the mother and the baby receive.

As I have been working on this project I’ve learned many new things. Something very interesting that I learned this week, pertaining to the research, is that when an infant crosses two or more growth centiles during the first 6 months of his or her life the baby is more likely to become obese by the age of three. This problem hasn’t been assessed in the Latino infants yet, and it is a problem that I have personally observed in the Latino community. It’s important to note what risk factors cause obesity in babies, so mothers know how they can raise healthy babies. If we start promoting a healthier lifestyle at a young age, future generations will become healthier.  

Before I began helping with this research project, I knew I wanted to work in the healthcare field, but I still wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to become. Being able to work on this study, being at the clinic, and watching nurses and doctors on the job helped me decide what I wanted to do. I now dream of becoming a nurse practitioner and I hope to continue conducting health-related research involving the Latino community in my future.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Alexandra Johnson

I am researching religion and war/peace for Professor Lester Kurtz. He is writing a book. I am currently researching about pacifism in Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. I am currently a Community Health major. I study health behavior, healthcare, etc. every week. I am starting an indoor garden. I spend the majority of my time working on the computer.The research process takes a long time and finding simply a few proper sources can take hours. It requires a substantial amount of patience because I have to read through many journals, articles, and books. Research is an important part of being a student. I see it as related to research I will be doing for my future undergraduate and graduate classes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

URSP Student Highlights: Haley Chung


Hello, my name is Haley Chung and I’m a senior pursuing a BFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry. I’m working with professor and poet, Susan Tichy on my senior thesis which is comprised of a twenty poem manuscript and a number of close readings on poems from published writers. My thesis attempts to unveil the concept of “home”. It poses the question: “As society becomes more interracial and intercultural, how does affect our interactions with physical space and place?” I became interested in this project through self-reflection. I began to wonder about my personal experience with the world around me through a bi-racial lens. Having grown up in an interracial family and in multiple places around the United Sates, I felt that my childhood was in constant motion, embarking on new landscapes, people, accents, etc. I wanted to explore this inconstant, and at times, transitory self. This project not only explores my identity right now but will help me understand my identity moving forward in life as a writer and human being. One of my obvious goals is to be a poet but I also aspire to become a professor for creative writing in the future.  By working closely with such an intricate topic and experiencing what it’s like to complete a “poetry research project”, I can assist future creative writing students with their endeavors .While asking and thinking about these big questions, I’m also writing and reading poems every week to help gain a better understanding of my research topic. Reading the works of other poets is extremely helpful when trying to develop my own language as a poet. Doing this also provides a great source of inspiration throughout the writing process.  For instance, I discovered this week to “play with form”. During this week’s writing process, I tried shaping my poems differently in order to add aesthetic and sonic diversity to my body of work. I got this idea from my mentor after she gave me valuable feedback on my first batch of poems I had written for this project. I was also reading through a book of poems by Patricia Lockwood who helped me think differently about poetic form through her ability to shape abstract story-telling and re-telling of her own childhood.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Cycielya Shultz


Since June of last year, I have been working with Professor Chris Kauffman on the development of a game designed as an educational tool. The AIDS Educational Game is intended for use in a college biology classroom, and demonstrates several stages of HIV infection at a molecular level. The eventual goal is to study whether using the program helps students to understand the material better than they would using more traditional methods.

My main role on this project is writing the actual code for the software, and gradually testing it as development advances. The program is written in Java, but we are using a framework that allows the software to be run in many different ways, including as an in-browser app. As a Computer Science major, this gives me a lot of insight into how multiple tools can be integrated together for use in one project, and how my coding skills can be applied to real-world problems. Working as an undergraduate research assistant has given me the opportunity to explore the idea of introducing new technologies to the classroom, and testing the effectiveness of the methods of teaching that these technologies present.

I am also learning how small design decisions early on in development can have a huge impact on the eventual product and its quality. Recently, I faced a challenge caused by flawed assumptions in the design of one aspect of the program, and as a result, I had to re-assess our approach to a new feature I was about to implement.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Anshuman Mohan

Hello Fellow Patriots! My name is Anshuman Mohan, and I am currently an undergraduate Research Assistant at the National Center of Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University. I am currently majoring in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. During the course of this semester, I have had the honor of working with Dr. Myung Chung, who is a well renowned Research Biochemist at the National Center of Biodefense and Infectious Diseases (NCBID) in Monique Van Hoek's lab. This was my first time working in a BSL-2 laboratory, and I began with little to no experience in working in an biochemistry lab when I began the assistantship. During the course of my research, I have learned many valuable lab techniques such as finding Minimum Inhibitory Concentrations and conducting Biofilm Assays. My main goal and project currently is to study Biofilm formation using different chemicals such as Francisella Novicida; a gram-negative pathogenic bacteria.
On a weekly basis, I try to find out which chemical can inhibit biofilm formation. I also help with the upkeep around the laboratory, by completing any tasks that are needed to maintain a clean and well maintained laboratory; along with organizing and stocking. So, thanks to this RA experience, along with working with Dr.Chung, I have officially learned how to take care of a BSL-2 lab. Which is considered to be a lab that covers working with different agents that could potentially be harmful to people and the environment, which requires a lot of knowledge on how to properly handle any pathogenic procedures or materials.

The project that Dr. Chung and I are working on, is a very dense and a thorough process.  Together, in the the Lopac Chemical Library, Dr. Chung and I try to find which chemical or pathway will inhibit Biofilm formation, among thousand of others. Dr. Chung and I have made a collection of progress in our project and are beginning to see results for a few chemicals that we have narrowed down to.  
I hope to one day work in a BSL-4 lab, a lab with much more dangerous biological threats. For example, Ebola would be studied in a BSL-4 lab. Somebody has to fight these infectious diseases! I would like to do research in order to find cures and study diseases, that currently do not have cures at the moment, such as HIV or Cancer. I also hope to see that my research helps future generations and helps to form more innovative ideas to create cures. Some people have lost complete hope for a cure to their disease, and I have a passion to help cure these people. As long as researchers use their knowledge and abilities for the better health of the world, we may find a cure in the near future with a lot of hard work. Working with Dr. Chung has helped me see many unresolved issues in the medical industry, and has helped me gain a passion to look harder for cures in the lab. I have also been introduced to many innovative thinkers and scholars  throughout this assistant-ship, which have worked to only add to my aspirations and peaking interest.

I have definitely developed a new perspective and gained deeper knowledge through research for current issues in the medical industry. I have learned a lot about a lab, and what it is like to work with a  professional team. Not only has this experience given me knowledge, but it has also made me aware of what to expect after college. This Research Assistant-ship has helped get a good grasp on to the issues in the medical industry, and I have become a part of the conversation. I really enjoyed working in the lab, and it is always great to meet important people, and to get your name out there. The Research Assistant-ship was a wonderful opportunity, and I feel very fortunate to have worked with such a passionate scientist, biochemist, and mentor, Dr. Myung Chung. ​

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

URSP Student Highlights: Emily Charnock


I had been introduced to Student as Scholars in one of my previous classes and was currently taking nutrition throughout the lifestyle with Professor Camella Rising. Nutrition has always been something I have been passionate about and Professor Rising’s class expanded my knowledge even further regarding how important nutrition is. Something that has interested me in the past as well is the current topic on calorie labeling on food and beverage items on menus. I would always think to myself if people actually took these labels into consideration when ordering off a menu. I then did some research of my own regarding this topic and hundreds of studies came up. Student as Scholars allows you to come up with your very own research project with a mentor who you believe has the right qualities to fit this position. I noticed there was a knowledge gap regarding this topic, which persuaded me to come up with a research question about nutritional labeling. Self-esteem and self-control have been two factors that came to mind when I thought about this gap. I wanted to somehow relate these two factors to the choices people make when given the nutritional information. Student as Scholars and Professor Rising allowed me to pursue this question through research tools and guidance.

I can see this being related to my long-term goals because being healthy and promoting a healthy lifestyle has always been a goal of mine. By conducting research regarding this topic it will show not only me but the community as well, how self-esteem and self-control may or may not play a factor in food and beverage choices.

On a weekly basis I either meet up with my mentor or discuss over the phone the tasks and next steps needed according to our project timeline we created. I then work on these tasks whether that is the survey, collection of data or etc.
One thing I discovered this week is how user-friendly Qualtrics survey is. Creating a survey from scratch is something new to me however the online Qualtrics system and the help of Camella and my other mentor Nadine allowed for a smooth and successful completion.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Salimatou C Ouedraogo


Working as a research assistant has given me the opportunity to greatly increase the capacity in which I am able to conduct research.I am working with Dr. JP Singh, Professor of Global Affairs and Cultural Studies. I am also working with two other Global Affairs undergraduate students: Naila Rafique (Class of 2015) and Corina Solarzo (Class of 2016).  The project that I am working on uses content analysis to first, determine if there is participation and second, extract types of participation in telecommunication projects for developing countries. Part of the project was also using a coding scheme and revising it as we became more familiar with the content analysis that was conducted every week. As a Global Affairs major, I have been exposed to the interdisciplinary nature of the field. On a weekly basis each research assistant reviews World Bank Documents that specify the details of telecommunication projects in various projects. After conducting content analysis on each document, a coding scheme is used to code qualitative and quantitative data in an organized excel sheet. Each person’s data is then compiled into another research sheet that is discussed during a calibration session. A calibration session is meetings in which we partake in a dialogue where we can help each other understand the results that were found when collecting data.
This week, I discovered the benefits of conducting calibration sessions with my research team. Together, we agreed that this method was the most beneficial for our research. This has allowed me to expound upon my knowledge of international affairs through my concentration of media, communications, and culture. This research will help with my future goals by giving me a better foundation for conducting original research as an Honors student and in Graduate school.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Meghana Varde

For my work-study position, I am working with Professor Marion Deshkmukh, who is hosting various events about the time period of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  There have been movies, lectures and guest speakers.  Topics range from the art and music to President Kennedy visiting Berlin.

On a weekly basis, I make copies of posters and flyers that are distributed to different departments on campus.  I have also made phone calls to make sure that orders/requests go through for the events.  I am able to attend various events and get an understanding of how the effect that the fall of the wall had on the people during this time period. 

One of the events that I attended was listening to guest speaker Andreas Daum, SUNY Buffalo, talk about President Kennedy’s visit to Berlin in the 1960’s.  It was interesting to learn about what goes on when a president visits another country.  President Kennedy spoke about what was happening at the time period. He took an entire tour around the city of Berlin in an open car, which most presidents did at the time.

This position has helped me learn how to manage my time and improve my organizational skills.  These are skills that I can practice now and continue to use them for the rest of my life.  As a Chemistry major, most of my classes are either science or math, so having this position has opened my eyes and mind to something outside of my comfort zone.  This was definitely a great experience and a great way to learn new things. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Daniel Asiedu


What influences tourists destination choice for a vacation? How often do tourists use the internet and social media platforms to read reviews, compare prices, acquire travel documentation, book accommodation and tour operators?  How credible are these information sources and do they influence tourist destination choices?  How much does the travel and tour industry contribute to a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment, and capital investment? 
My name is Daniel Asiedu; I am a senior studying Information Systems and Operations Management at the School of Business. I work with Dr. Abena Aidoo at the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism; our study has been analyzing the questions above but with an emphasis on the tourism industry in West African countries.  Our study focuses on how tourist boards in West Africa use the internet and social media to develop their tourism industry. I am currently putting together an article on our research for publication.
My primary objective for participating in this project is to get an in-depth understanding into academic research and how it influences public policy. I intend to pursue a graduate degree in economics. I am passionate about entrepreneurship, education, poverty alleviation policies, and development economics. My hope is to contribute to developing a sustainable economic and political system that encourages people to live to their potential, particularly in the developing world.

URSP Student Highlights: Katherynn Barlow


As a junior, I am currently studying psychology, and while involved in numerous organizations on campus, I specifically enjoy spending my time working in the lab with families! I have had the opportunity to work in Dr. Tara Chaplin’s Parent-Adolescent Interaction Task Lab, a three-year longitudinal study examining numerous aspects of the parent-adolescent relationship and adolescent development. While working as a research assistant, I truly fell in love with the process of research and its methodical procedures. I knew I wanted to take part in adding to the current body of research and it was decided that I would examine the parenting behaviors towards the adolescent when the parent is undergoing marital distress for my project.
 
Throughout a regular week, I spend quite a bit of time running lab sessions or questionnaire sessions with the participants. Otherwise, I like to dedicate my time to coding the videotaped interactions between parents and adolescents, meeting with my mentor, or by working on data entry or analyses. An additional (and very important part) of my week is spent adding to my undergrad thesis or revising, revising, revising! It might get tiring, but I know with hard work and dedication I will be able to grow even more throughout this process. In fact, this week I discovered results that were not necessarily what I intended, but I also discovered my perseverance and dedication to this project is immense. No matter what happens statistically, it is the experience which I am forever grateful for.

Throughout this process, I have furthered my fascination with research and hope to continue on to graduate school where I can focus even more in depth on the study of children and adolescents. I know without a doubt I have a strong desire to be of service to struggling families and children, and whether it will be through counseling or research (or both!), I know this undergraduate experience is guiding me to where I need to be in order to do so.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Notae Eddo


Currently, I am working as a research assistant on a sociology project with professor and director of the Women and Gender Studies, Angela Hattery. We are working on a research mainly on exonerations, but also on prison population growth. A large portion of the research assistantship includes literature review, production, maintenance, and review of statistics, reports, presentations, and other files. Our research consists of anything from literature review of government or organization publications of prison population and exonerations to researching statistics and the trends behind them.
Another big aspect of this project has been all the things I have learned and familiarized myself with. It is research, which means the biggest part of my job is investigating and learning new information. From this position, I have gotten the opportunity to work with basic Microsoft software like excel to a new depth and have picked up skill in social science software like SPSS. Every day, partaking in a new tasks involves utilizing skill I have already acquired in programs like these, as well as developing new ones, with the help of online tutorials and other materials.
A week in this position would look like me corresponding with Angie to obtain my goals and or projects for the duration of time. Whether in that week, my goal is to gather information on a topic or maintain the data we have been working on and come up with a report, it is always an exciting experience that I take something from. This week, through my research, I actually learned that Mason has a whole other section online for research available to students called InfoGuides. Like the search options you come across at the library home page, this offers really good resources specialized to subject and more. I have really appreciated the opportunity to partake in this research project at Mason. Being an undergrad in the Psychology program, I have now participated in something that has further developed my research skills outside of the classroom and that is something very important to this field.

Friday, April 24, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Maryam Jan


Hello, my name is Maryam Jan and I am an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Department of Social Work. I am currently assisting Dr. Emily Ihara and Dr. Catherine Tompkins with the course curriculum for The Introduction to the Profession of Social Work. I have learned so much from my mentors, GRS (Graduate Research Supervisor), and my peers that I am working along with. I am a junior double majoring in Business Finance and Accounting, therefore, working with the Social Work Department made me learn so much about the profession, their commitments, and the depth of the whole course. I am always open to explore new opportunities and learn seeing the world from a different perspective. Since I am working on the introductory course for Social Work, I got a grasp of what all students will be expecting to learn on the coming courses. While carrying out my research I was immensely intrigued in the topics of Immigration and Social work. Being an immigrant myself, I wanted to go deeper and learn more and more on the topic. I am a strong believer of learning, I feel like students shouldn’t restrict their learning experience to just their own major. This is the main reason I was attracted to this position, I wanted a scope beyond my field, and this has really opened my mind. I have read through many papers, articles, journals, and dissertations on LGBT, immigration, disability, poverty, macro-economic policies, substance abuse, domestic violence etc., all in context with Social Welfare and this has aided in my understanding of hardships faced by minorities in the U.S., and the great service and commitment of social workers in helping them. These views will help me as a open-minded business women in the future, and I believe that I will learn patience, loyalty, understanding, and caring for my community.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Maria Chopivsky


I am one of several GMU Maternal Child Health Equity Scholars working with Dr. Kathy Gaffney on a project that examines modifiable risk factors contributing to rapid weight gain in infants of low income, Hispanic, immigrant mothers. The obesity rates of these children are high, and our team is committed to discovering some of the habits formed in early infancy that contribute to this trend. My role specifically is to interview mothers at the 2, 4, and 6-month well child visits at the pediatrician’s office. We ask the mothers questions regarding infant and mother sleep patterns, as well as infant activity level and feeding schedule. Of particular importance to us is whether or not the child is breastfed or formula fed, and how frequently. We gather data on the infant’s height and weight and plot the information to visualize growth patterns.
Because the project targets Spanish speakers, a big portion of the initial project was focused on ensuring the interview questions were both culturally and linguistically appropriate for the population. All of us scholars are proficient in Spanish, and we have been collaborating to find the most suitable verbiage in order to elicit the information we are seeking.

We are fortunate to be working at a clinic where the physicians and nurses allow us to observe the assessment portion of the child’s visit, and we gain a lot of clinical knowledge from this experience. I learned the other day that one must evaluate both the femoral and brachial pulses of an infant to determine whether or not they have the congenital anomaly of coarctation of the aorta. I also learned that, while formula contains a higher percentage of iron, infants are able to digest more iron from breast milk.

My future goal is to become a midwife, and the work I am doing on this project will greatly contribute to my efforts in achieving this. The results of this research will provide me and other maternal child health professionals with the tools to properly educate our patients on the risk factors that lead to infant and child obesity. It is also teaching me how to effectively communicate with patients from different cultures, and the appropriate questions to ask during data collection.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Andrea Taylor


My name is Andrea Taylor and I have been working as an undergraduate Research Assistant with Dr. Shannon Davis. I am assisting Dr. Davis and Dr. Rebecca Jones on a project that focuses on undergraduate research and specifically how the relationship between mentor and mentee is developed. If we learn more about how this relationship starts and how it develops, faculty members can better prepare undergraduate students to become proficient researchers.
On a weekly basis, I search for relevant scholarly articles related to the development of mentoring relationships. I am doing an extensive literature review to explore the existing data on how mentored students initiate and develop their relationship with their mentors.
I have discovered in my research this week how college faculty incorporate their responsibility of mentorship into their demanding workload. Many faculty that act as mentors to undergraduate and graduate students have numerous other responsibilities such as publishing their own research, attending conferences and many serve as committee members within the university. This adds another factor into how the mentors initiate a meaningful relationship with their undergraduate students, and how they are able to make themselves available to them. 
After graduation, I may explore job opportunities as a research assistant. I am currently also a research intern for a company that deals with Native American issues, and I plan to explore that field further. In addition, my OSCAR research experience will be helpful if I apply for graduate school, which may also be an option.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

URSP Student Highlights: Neha Bansal


I started working full-time at Dr. Kylene Kehn-Hall’s lab through Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program in summer 2014. What really attracted me to Dr. Kehn-Hall’s lab was her research with Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV). Her lab is a part of National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University, where many infectious diseases pathogens are studied. RVFV can be used for bioterrorism; hence, an effective therapeutic is urgently needed to prevent the spread of this disease. We discovered a FDA-approved drug that significantly inhibits the virus. My project is to find the target or mechanism of that drug.
I conduct lot of experiments such as tissue culture, Western blot, transfection, infection and plaque assay on weekly basis. Studies with mammalian cells and virus are performed in a biosafety hood to prevent contamination and bacterial infestation. The most important thing while working in lab is to have patience and follow the procedure carefully because many experiments take an entire week to complete. A small misstep may cause starting the entire experiment over, which can greatly delay the results.
Every day, I learn something new – something that I discovered through my experiments, a new technique that I learned in the lab or learning through my mistakes. There is never a dull moment for me, and I am very excited to see the end result of the studies I am conducting. Working in Dr. Kehn-Hall’s lab made me realize the importance of research in society. I also realized how much I enjoy being in the lab, and this is what I want for my career. I am interested in pursuing infectious diseases research in graduate school, so the experience I gain in the lab right now will be extremely helpful to me later. Undergraduate Student Scholars Program has provided me an opportunity to stay in Dr. Kehn-Hall’s lab to finish my project, and develop some useful lab techniques that would benefit me in future as well.

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Karl Diaz


My project is the development of curricula and syllabi for several courses in the Social Work department. I work on creating and developing these courses for a Blackboard format. My supervisors are Drs. Ihara and Tompkins of the Social Work department though I work with other members of the department on occasion. On a weekly basis, I assign readings from the texts provided in the syllabi, research media relevant to the topics discussed and add articles for the students to read on the Blackboard course. I find media such as video clips or websites that clarify the topics and give the students visual examples of the concepts. The articles I find are added to the assigned readings and also stored separately in a Zotero database. This allows easy access for other colleagues and keeps the articles organized. My supervisors also sometimes assign me smaller projects such as research of a topic related to social work in order to help them write papers and perform research in the field.

On several courses, I create multiple versions of the same course. For example, I may create SOCW 375 but also design one for a 6-week summer course, 15-week online course and 15-week in-class course. To accomplish this, I have used my previous experience with online and in-class courses and helpful input from my supervisors in order to design the course in a way that caters to the demands placed on the students. This allows me to make the course clear and accessible and give them the tools to succeed. This week, I became adept at using Zotero and organized the articles I found in folders appropriate to the courses. This allows me to keep the articles organized in each folder and to have an available list of articles to see how the course progresses. This project has given me valuable experience of what it is to work in a professional environment, the expectations placed on me when working in such an environment and how to communicate my needs to my supervisors in order to improve the quality of my work. I hope this job will help me when interacting with professionals in my field in the future and to meet reasonable expectations.

URSP Student Highlights: John Kim


My name is John Kim and I am a student working toward a bachelor of science in biology. Name of the project I’m working on is the global distribution of hepatitis B virus infection, its viral genotypes, and vaccine coverage: updated HBsAg seroprevalence estimates and analysis of determinants. When I was in elementary school, I had a friend whose family member died of a liver cancer at a fairly young age. I wanted to know about causes, symptoms, and treatment available for liver cancer. When a student needed help translating and analyzing Hepatitis B virus related article published in Korean, I found this as a perfect opportunity to volunteer. My curiosity of the causes of liver cancer drove me to pursue the translational research internship at the Inova Beatty Liver and Obesity laboratory.

My ultimate professional goal is a career in dentistry. This project fits perfectly into my broader educational goals because it is helping me to better understand the impact of infectious microorganisms on human and oral health. In studying HBV transmission mechanisms, I’m intrigued by “patient-to-patient transmission” during oral surgeries, which emphasizes to me the importance of decontamination procedures. This project will be one piece of a growing base of my knowledge I will carry over to my endeavors in dental school, dental research, and my best clinical practices.

On a weekly basis, I work on finding statistics related to hepatitis B virus(HBV) on databases. For the past few weeks, I have been trying to find the HBV prevalence  from different countries. As I was looking for the prevalence rate, I realized HBV prevalence is still pretty high especially in developing countries. Despite the presence of advanced hepatitis B vaccine, significant amount of population are still suffering from diseases and cancer caused by HBV. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

URSP Student Highlights: Caitlin Johnson


There are many branches in the bioengineering field and many ways to invent oneself as a member of that community. For me, it was very difficult to pick which way I wanted to go and where my interests lie inside of the vast abyss of bioengineering knowledge. But, like most bioengineers, I knew that I wanted to make a meaningful impact on the future of medicine and healthcare. This, I realized could only be done by getting involved in research.
My mentors, Dr, Dianna Purvis and Dr. Siddhartha Sikdar, approached me with a project that promised to be a breakthrough in the way of diagnosing cervical vascular injuries which could lead to stroke risk analysis in trauma patients. As part of an ongoing study, of which the results have been very promising, my role would be to extract data from a larger number of patient Doppler ultrasound screenings. By expanding the number of patient data sets, we can effectively improve the statistics on and our certainty of the effectiveness of a newer, easier, and more cost-effective way to diagnose major head and neck trauma in patients.
In a typical day, I work with a Spencer Technology’s transcranial Doppler ultrasound examining hemodynamic flow (blood flow) images for various parts of arteries in the neck and the head. I may have to adjust image variables depending on the signal envelope and record the data into an excel sheet for statistical analysis. What I have discovered along the way is that the huge amount of signal variation between patients makes adjusting variables a very subjective process and introduces extraneous errors that may impact results. Extracting valid data is very time intensive and must be done with the utmost attention to detail.

URSP Highlights: Ronald Bacon


My father ever since I was young has had a fish tank at first it was a freshwater tank but when I was about 10 years old, he converted it to a saltwater tank. Having these tanks in the house growing up inspired my fascination with marine life, in particular corals reefs and their inhabitants. While maintaining a coral tank myself and enduring the trials and tribulations that follow I gained a deep appreciation for the chemistry that is involved in simulating an environment that is conducive to a coral reefs health.  When I was taking a class with Dr. Foster and he mentioned that he was an aquatic chemist I immediately knew I wanted to run some thoughts I had from my experience with my own tank and the issues that plague reefs today. I went after class one day to his office and we started a conversation that would lead to a project that focuses on looking at an aquatic environment and what variables can possibly be altered by anthropogenic effects.  The project may not be focused on a coral reef but the experience of collecting and analyzing data of a waterway is valuable experience contributing to my long-term goals.  
The experiment focuses on the carbon nitrogen ratios of a stream that is in an area of high urbanization with lots of surrounding impermeable surface to see if this ratio is affected by urbanization. To do this we have chosen to look at three areas, one that is an area of high urbanization, one low to minimal urbanization, and one downstream from a wastewater plant. To accomplish this, one day every two weeks I go out into the field and collect water samples from these three locations to be brought back to the lab. On another day I will in between classes go the lab and filter the samples and prepare them to be analyzed for carbon nitrogen content. In preparing the samples, I must remove inorganic carbons by treating it with hydrochloric acid.  After treatment, I found my samples had increased in weight even though the inorganic carbon was removed this was due to the fact that the carbonates were replaced with a heavier chloride making the samples gain weight. Chemistry.

URSP Highlights: Eric Backus


After spending some time instructing fellow combat medics in the US Army, I found myself returning to civilian life with a penchant for teaching.  Several years later, I made a transition from soldier to student- a transition which presented a unique and challenging new “mission” for me. I recal my separation from the US Army shortly after the events of 9/11, but, as I was receiving my honorable discharge papers, many other soldiers were receiving their deployment papers. Unsurprisingly, I soon found a new home with the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Red Cross as a civilian-side emergency response training and preparedness instructor. I am proud of the nearly 13 years I’ve spent training clinicians and the community, and, as an international AHA instructor, I feel fortunate to have train people all over the world.        
Today, we see thousands of US military/service members returning home from their deployments and discharge from service and universities like Mason are seeing a sharp increase in veteran enrollment. Many of us veterans know little else other than the highly regulated and controlled learning environments in the military. Now, in the new civilian environment, the collegiate professors present veterans with a new structure of immediacy - one in which more relaxed interpersonal constructs and behaviors are acceptable. I’ve found that often times, veterans struggle with the new autonomous and lenient instructional practices. As a veteran, Communication major, and aspiring professor, a positive instructor-student relationship has been integral to my learning experience and future academic work. To this end, my research investigates instructor immediacy (communicative behavioral practices), which have long been reputed for having a strong and positive correlation with various students’ learning outcomes.  Specifically, my research will attempt to identify how verbal & nonverbal instructor immediacy affects student-veterans' cognitive and affective learning outcomes.
This week in my research, I am taking my newly IRB approved questionnaire to the veterans at Mason. I must admit that I severely underestimated the IRB approval process - not even the tiniest stone was left unturned by the board.  Now that that lesson’s been ingrained, I’m ready to leave the planning phase and finally begin the real study. After reaching out to the George Mason Veteran’s Society, I’m having a number of them help me kick-off the first round of surveys. I’m hoping to secure at least 75 responses but cannot settle for less than 50 if I’m going to stay on pace to hit 250 total participants.With over 1500 student-veterans at Mason, I like my chances at hitting my first week’s numbers!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

URSP Highlights: Ezza Anees


My research project is based on survivors of human trafficking, more specifically sex trafficking survivors who are reintegrated into their community but unfortunately face economic financial crisis.  This topic is not covered excessively in research and there’s very little accurate information provided in literature.  This fact provoked my interest in learning more about the everyday struggles of this specific population.  There are many factors that contribute to the economic well being of a sex trafficked survivor.  Through this research, I’m able to learn what services and programs this vulnerable population needs in order to protect them from not only being re-trafficked but also main a stable healthy environment around them. 

In the long run, I would like to continue working on research projects that are related to human trafficking.  My research right now gives me an opportunity to gain an understanding of one specific form of trafficking.  In the future, it will help me enhance my knowledge on what I’ve already learned.  On weekly basis, I work on small pieces of the report I’m creating with my mentor.  This requires me to read other research literature that has already been conducted so that I can use it towards my benefit.  I also meet with my mentor weekly to discuss ideas and receive feedback.  As I was reading the interviews that were conducted from the survivors of sex trafficking, I learned that many women were sent to brothels that were funded by American soldiers stationed in the Philippines.  It’s one thing to know that as a general fact but a whole another emotional setback when you read about a story full of details from a person who was forced to please one of our soldiers.  It’s sad and heartbreaking!