Monday, September 25, 2017

OSCAR Student Taylor Munir Focuses on Modesty and Bragging for the American Cultural Change Project

Hi, my name is Taylor. I am a junior studying Conflict Analysis and Resolution. As a Conflict Analysis and Resolution Major I spend a lot of time talking and learning about different cultures. Specifically, how a culture influences an individual’s perspective on the world. These cultural difference often impact how individual interact with their environment, and how they perceive conflicts. The knowledge I have gained through my major has shown me the importance of learning about different perspectives. Therefore, I jump at any chance to broaden my knowledge on any culture. When I read about a project that focused on American Culture I knew it was something I would want to research about.
The idea behind the American Cultural Change project is to track how different concepts have evolved in American Culture over time. The focus of my research was on modesty verses bragging. I researched how often we discussed modesty and bragging over the past few decades. This was to determine whether one was more prominent in our society today than in the past. Discussion on modesty in particular has decreased whereas bragging has increased. This is particularly evident in the American school system. A decline in modesty talk lead me to researched how students are taught, and how influenced they are by bragging in their academics careers. On a weekly basis I read through articles on education, and grade inflation. I also read books on classroom management, and self- esteem. 

This project made me reevaluate how I look at my education. It has shown me where I can personally improve to become a more humble in my education. As well as the impacts of an atmosphere where bragging is encouraged.

OSCAR Student Josephine Neulen Researches Populism and Right Wing Extremism in Europe

Hello! My name is Josephine Neulen and I am a senior Government and International Politics student at George Mason University. My OSCAR research focused on populism and right wing extremism in Europe, specifically France, Germany, and the UK. I have always been fascinated by these sorts of movements and why people support them, especially when they happen in large waves. As a German and French native, this research was fascinating since I could try to explain a recent phenomenon by comparing data to the cultural context I was familiar with. I was incredibly lucky to have been supported by my university and great faculty to pursue my interest. This summer I truly learned what Political Science is-- yes, I said Science-- and how to structure my research and find data to support or refute my hypotheses using the right methodology. I got to be a student for a whole summer, learning about Logistic Regression, coding, LaTeX (no, not the material-- the document preparation system), and how to turn a simple interest into scholarly work.

It was amazing to have the opportunity to work independently, whether that meant working at home or even travel abroad to meet faculty at other universities to help me guide my research. I had frequent meetings with my research mentor, Professor Daigle, who gave me assignments for each time we met to help me be more structured in my learning. It was incredibly helpful to be challenged and to be taught in such a unique way. I learned how to manage time properly, ask for advice and for help, and what to do when there is a major roadblock in your work (it happens!). Because of this great experience I will always remember that there is more to being a Government student than just working for the government, and that the “science” part of Political Science is there for a reason. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

OSCAR Student Daniel Bentley Gains Technical Experience in Water Resource Engineering

I became interested in Water Resources Engineering in Fall 2016 when I took Dr. Binning’s Hydraulics course and lab. I became further interested when I took Dr. Ferreira’s Water Resources Engineering Course in Spring 2017. At the end of the semester with Dr. Ferreira I sat down to discuss with him what career paths Water Resources Engineering Could lead me down. Shortly after this conversation he gave me a job in his research. After three years of Civil Engineering prerequisities and coursework I have finally decided to pursue a subset of the field on a more long-term basis.
Over the summer, in the lab, I have been working to maintain and deploy all equipment in the lab. A lot of my work is assisting the graduate students with their research. Although I do not conduct any concrete research myself I have witnessed first hand the full process of data gathering and processing. Through my work I have been to Magothy Bay on the Eastern Shore twice this summer to program and deploy two Aquadopp velocity sensors, twelve HOBO water level loggers, TruBlue wave sensors, and a real time meteorological weather station. I did research on weather stations and ordered, programmed, and built the one that we have. I also organized a scouting trip down the Potomac to view field sites for potential locations. I obtained permits for three different sites then organized a trip down the Potomac to install water level loggers with the graduate students. Mostly what I have learned this Summer is project management skills in the Water Resources Research arena. 
My main takeaway from this summer was that I gained a large amount of technical experience in the field of sensors. Prior to graduating I plan to develop my own sensor units complete with microcontroller, battery, solar panel, satellite modem, and sensors. I will make these at a fraction of the cost that we pay a company to make them. This will allow me to communicate more effectively with technical engineers as I further pursue my career in Water Resources Engineering

OSCAR Student Luc Tran Researches Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

My project for this summer semester is a continuation of my last semester OSCAR project. The overall theme of my research is a disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). IPF is a fatal lung disease that is characterized with scarring of the lung overtime due to over activation of fibroblasts and increased collagen deposition. My interest in IPF began when I was able to join Dr. Geraldine Grant’s lab during the Biology Research Semester. My project last semester was to determine the effect of exposure of a metabolite of acetaminophen, known as N- acetyl benzoquinone imine (NAPQI) on the expression of certain IPF gene markers: alpha smooth muscle actin (ASMA) and collagen-1-alpha (COL1A). I found that direct NAPQI exposure had no significant increase in ASMA or COL1A in both normal and IPF fibroblasts. However, there was an increase in the expression of Procollagen-Lysine,2-Oxoglutarate 5-Dioxygenase 1 and 2 (PLOD1/2) in the IPF fibroblasts. My experiment this semester is to expose epithelial cells to acetaminophen so that the epithelial cells can metabolize acetaminophen into NAPQI and transfer the NAPQI to the fibroblasts. My goal is to find a similar increase in PLOD1 and PLOD2 after “co-culture” treatment of the normal and IPF fibroblasts with acetaminophen as direct exposure to NAPQI. This finding would begin to provide an explanation linking IPF with acetaminophen consumption because direct cause of IPF is still unknown.


On a daily basis, I culture the fibroblasts and also run q-PCRs to determine expression of ASMA, PLOD1 and PLOD2. I discovered a significant increase in PLOD1 in the IPF fibroblasts as I did with direct exposure to NAPQI. This project is related to my long term goal of going to medical school by that it is direct research on a disease and also if I can link acetaminophen to IPF, I can warn my future patients about the dangers of acetaminophen.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

OSCAR Student Alexander Mertz Examines the Rise of the Christian Church as a Political Force in the Late Roman Empire

Good day to you all! My name is Alex Mertz and although I am a mathematics major, I am currently pursuing research in fourth century religious and political history. Not to worry – I am also minoring in religious studies! (This all ties together somehow…) In any case, my current project examines the rise of the Christian Church as a political force in the late Roman Empire.

This project is rooted in my Honors 240 class from Fall 2016 with Dr. Collins, my mentor for this research. That class focused on Christian and pagan interactions in the early Roman Empire, through the life of Constantine in the early 300s. Finding the class fascinating, I wanted to know what happened next. How did Christians go from a persecuted minority to crucial imperial advisors in less than a century? By the year 380, Ambrose, bishop of Milan, was changing imperial action with a mere letter or sermon. I sought to discover how this change occurred so quickly.

My research is entirely literary: every week I choose some ancient writings (letters, sermons, or speeches) to examine and note any interesting passages while I look for language about politics and authority. After this, I often consult a secondary or tertiary source from some scholarly character to see what they thought. I revisit the original writing in Greek or Latin and again look for the themes and patterns. Last, I compare what I found to other writings from the same author and other authors in the time period. Having amassed numerous quotations and notes, I move on to another piece.

Reading all day may sound boring, especially when that reading is in a dead language, authored by someone who lived almost two millennia ago, but this directly relates to my career goals. After graduating Mason, I plan to attend Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to become a Lutheran priest, with the long-term aspiration of a PhD in theology and professorship at a university, doing more research on Church history. I have long suspected that I would enjoy such a job, and the opportunity to complete a URSP with Dr. Collins has confirmed that belief. This has been a wonderful experience and a great opportunity on all accounts to enhance my education and go beyond the classroom.