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.

Monday, June 5, 2017

URSP Student Mariam Talib Studies the Characteristics of Rural and Diverse Undergrad Students Who Have Financial Need

My name is Mariam Talib, and I am currently a senior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience and concentration in Industrial and Organizational psychology. The project I am currently working on focuses on the characteristics of rural and diverse undergraduate students, who demonstrate financial need. The cohort I will be using will include students majoring in COS degrees (anatomy, chemistry, biology, mathematics, environmental science, geology, physics and other COS degrees). The aim of this research is to better understand the well-being and performance of these rural students by becoming familiar with their experiences as STEM majors.

As a student with an interest in becoming an industrial and organizational psychologist, it is necessary for me to focus on individual, group and organizational dynamics. I believe in the significance of developing methods that increase the satisfaction of students and their interaction with the program.  It will allow schools to focus on finding more effective ways to help students of various backgrounds to succeed not only academically, but also socially. This relates to my long term goals as it will enable me to gain experience in areas such as recruitment, training, development and performance measurement, which are all major components of my field of interest.

Throughout the semester, I have aided in finalizing the method of study and the development of the survey along with interview questions, which can be used to analyze the cohort. I receive guidance from my mentor on a weekly basis, in order to develop the study design as well as perform weekly literature reviews to further enhance my knowledge on the chosen topic. At the end of the week, the intended goal is to learn one more fact about my topic and to complete everything on the tasks list, which is provided by my mentor.

Friday, June 2, 2017

URSP Student Jessica Green Researches Cognitive Control and Heart Rate Variability as Predictors to Responses to Stress/Trauma

My name is Jessica Green. I am a double major in Psychology and Neuroscience.  For my OSCAR project, I will be focusing on cognitive control and heart rate variability (HRV) as possible predictors to responses to stress/trauma. My research deals with measuring HRV and cognitive control before and after watching a distressing film clip. The film clip serves to mimic a stressful experience. My interest in trauma began in high school when I noticed changes in my father’s health due to serving overseas. I have always known that I wanted to do study in the psychology field and when I got to George Mason, I first decided to major in Psychology and involve myself in innovative research related to trauma. I joined Dr. Renshaw’s lab as an undergraduate research assistant where I was encouraged to propose a research question of my own. For my long-term goal, I hope to be able to use the skills and experiences I gain from this OSCAR project as a way to distinguish myself when I start applying to medical schools next year. On a weekly basis, I read literature on the psychophysiological relationship between cognitive control and HRV. I communicated my proposal and revisions with the Institutional Review Board (IRB), and after receiving approval was able to run mock trials for data. In addition, I was trained on how to use an electrocardiogram (ECG). One thing I discovered thus far is that not everyone finds the same thing the same film clip to be distressing, suggesting that people can react differently to same stressful experience. The most difficult part was receiving approval from IRB.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

URSP Student Michael Berghold Builds Hamiltonian Paths Across the Surface of Three-Dimmensional Objects

For my research, I am working with Professor Lien to build Hamiltonian paths across the surface of three-dimensional objects. These paths can be used to fold and unfold the surface of a three dimensional object into a more compact arrangement. This can be used to 3-D print an object in a small space and then refold it into its larger size.

My interest in this project began when I first transferred to George Mason, when I met Professor Lien as my academic advisor. During our first meeting we discussed different aspects of Computer Science, more specifically algorithms. I showed him a small project I had been working on by myself which happened to lead to the research I am doing now. I had been writing a solution to the traveling salesman problem, in which a salesman must find the most efficient route between several different customers. It was then that he introduced me to the idea of unfolding an objects surface and the applications that it may have. By considering the makeup of a three dimensional object as a collection of many points, you could find a path that touches each point in one continuous strip, much like the traveling salesman must find a path to all of its customers in one continuous route. The challenge of finding this path is very interesting to me and I have been studying it ever since.

This has been my best experience so far at George Mason. I have learned a great deal about using programming languages, collaborating with other people, and conquering challenging problems. Professor Lien has been a great mentor, giving me all the tools I need to succeed. This type of work is definitely something I would look to pursue as a career once I graduate from Mason.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

URSP Student Tabatha Donley Researches the Struggles for West Papuan Merdeka from Indonesia

My name is Tabatha Donley and I am a senior majoring in Global Affairs, with a concentration in International Development and minors in Social Justice and Conflict Analysis/Resolution. With the support of OSCAR, I am studying the struggle for West Papuan merdeka (freedom) from its occupying force, Indonesia. I first learned about West Papua through a CULT 320 course, with my interest in the Melanesian region heightening after meeting GMU’s Visiting Scholar and West Papuan activist Herman Wainggai (huge thanks to Professor John Dale, my current mentor, for the introduction). Together, Mr. Wainggai and I coordinated several campus events where he shared his experience and perspective as a displaced Papuan. My interactions with Mr. Wainggai left me wanting to learn and contribute more towards the movement for Papuan Merdeka; thus, began my OSCAR research.

Drawing upon interviews with Mr. Wainggai, as well as anthropological and sociological literature, my study serves to highlight the importance of establishing localized human rights discourses within an indigenous sovereignty movement, thereby increasing understanding of how indigenous communities can best mobilize and achieve self-determination without compromising their collective cultures and identities. My research also explores indigenous leadership, burnout, and intellectual property rights (IPR) within the context of Papuan merdeka. Unlike STEM research, I spend no time in labs or with vast amounts of quantitative data. Instead, my days are spent in the library, analyzing scholarly journals, coding documents, interviewing Mr. Wainggai, or making connections between various global indigenous movements.

As a senior who plans to attend graduate school, this experience has been instrumental in gaining further insight into the world of scholarly research, both its challenges and rewards. Being mentored by Professor Dale has also expanded my understanding of human rights discourse, and guided me into new fields of research methodologies, theories, and movements.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

URSP Student Katharine Lai Researches Researches the Perceptions of Behavioral Control Among College-Aged Students

As part of my capstone communication course, I was introduced to OSCAR and the possibility of pursuing a scholarly research project as an undergraduate. Immediately, I thought of my interest in mental health and decided I wanted to explore how to improve access to counseling and psychological services for students of George Mason University. After applying for and receiving a URSP research grant, I was able to follow my curiosity and develop a unique research question, collect data, and analyze results – setting me up for success in future academic and career opportunities. Through my research, I have learned invaluable skills which I can apply to my long-term career goal of creating a non-profit organization designed to give mentally disabled people access to quality health care and community inclusion. I have enhanced my writing, research, and time management abilities, learned about research ethics and protocols, and practiced presentational skills. While completing a research project from start to finish may seem daunting, on a weekly basis my tasks are manageable. I spend a good portion of time finding and reading existing research on the topic of mental health access, specifically looking at perceptions of behavioral control among college-aged students. While not researching, I am designing survey questions on the software program Qualtrics, sending emails asking for survey participants, or analyzing data using the statistical software SPSS. Throughout this semester, I have discovered how much I enjoy researching, synthesizing data, and being able to tangibly contribute to my academic field. OSCAR has given me such a valuable opportunity to expand my knowledge and appreciation of communication research.

Monday, May 29, 2017

URSP Student Stephen Guion Researches to Pursue His Goals

Two experiences inspired me to conduct my current experiment. First, my current mentor Dr. Craig McDonald, taught us about intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells and how they respond to short-wavelength light. With a basic interest in the interaction between humans and modern technology, this topic intrigued me. Later, I saw an advertisement for blue-enriched lights with the branding promising an increase in cognitive efficiency. Having learned of the effects of blue light on arousal, and with an understanding of the top-down modulation of expectation, this advertisement campaign also inspired me to investigate which variable was most responsible for the observed

I chose this research question in order to begin the process of chipping away at my long- term goals. With a goal of investigating the effects of modern technology on human behavior, cognition, and physiological adaptation, it may be difficult to narrow down and find a focused research question. This topic, however, provided me with a window, with which I could approach my long-term goals in a scholarly and interdisciplinary fashion.

On a weekly basis, my assignments heavily depend on my participants. I have twenty sessions per week available for participants to request both research credit through SONA, or extra credit through their professors, if applicable. Recently, I have been running ten participants a week in my experiment, which takes about fifteen hours a week. Research acts as somewhat of a part-time job, so the other five to ten hours per week are spent preparing data for final analysis and drafting my thesis for my honors thesis defense scheduled for April 25th, 2017.

This term, I discovered the responsibility involved in independent research. Last semester, I was aiding a PhD student with his dissertation, which sparked my current research question. This semester, however, I have been working alone, with advice from my research mentor, which has taught me the dedication and responsibility that research requires. Also, I have taken on a research assistant (who is a wonderful student entering her first semester of the Honors Psychology Thesis Program), and this has given me further motivation to pursue my goal of becoming a research professor and director of a university thesis program.

Friday, May 26, 2017

URSP Student Selena Chaivaranon Researches Creator Commentary and the Creation Process of the Transformers Franchise

My name is Selena Chaivaranon; I am a senior and Sociology major, and am deeply interested in the ability of the media to influence public agenda and to cultivate the idea of what is considered normative. In my university capstone course, I had previously investigated the ways in which Transformers characters are portrayed on-screen in the original 1984 cartoon, the live-action movies, and the Transformers: Prime cartoon, with respect to how they embodied American cultural values, such as the promotion of patriarchy and freedom, the division of gender into a strict binary system,
the norm of violence, and the division of what is “right” versus what is “wrong.” This semester, I am focusing on how the creators themselves (such as the artists, script writers, directors, voice actors, etc.) discuss the characters and the creation process of the Transformers TV shows, movies, and toys. How deliberate are their decisions? What sorts of stages do these characters go through in their initial design phases, and how are those elements translated into a final product? How are the characters, and the principle values they embody, divided up between their factions? These are but a few of the questions I had wanted to explore in order to gain a better understand the process and degree of intentionality that goes into creating a long-lasting, well-known franchise.

The messages that these creators try to embed in TV shows, which are intended to market material products (toys) to children in part illustrate what is accepted and appreciated in American culture today. I am interested not only in the ways in which children’s media often perpetuates harmful stereotypes of minority groups, but in how it can also promote ideas of equality and acceptance. This has become especially important to me given the recent surge in hate-crime across the USA, and I am thrilled to have been able to gain additional first-hand experience in conducting my own research in this topic.  

I recorded and analyzed quantitative and qualitative data from print materials (such as art concept books and memorabilia collections), web pages, and online videos (such as interviews and panel presentations), and synthesized the data as they corresponded to themes surrounding gender and sexuality, the division of “right” and “wrong,” and violence. At this point in time, I have finished the first draft of my research paper and am currently working on editing a second draft, and putting together a poster presentation. It is my hope to also prepare a version of my paper for publication, so that I may add to the existing body of literature surrounding not only the Transformers franchise but of American media and pop-culture. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

URSP Student Clare Yordy Researches How Bisexuality is Portrayed in Film and Television

My name is Clare Yordy, and I am a freshman studying Government and International Politics. I am conducting research on how bisexuality is portrayed in film and television, which I began working on in my Honors 110 class last semester. I’ve always had a passion to learn more about sexuality and gender, so I thought it would be interesting to look into a sexuality that gets very little positive attention: bisexuality. Because bisexuality rarely appears in any form of mass media, I wanted to find out how it’s represented and how it affects society as a whole. After completing the class, I realized how much work there was to do on this topic, and was inspired to pursue it further. Eventually, I came to realize that I will also want to research how portrayals of bisexuality affect bisexual individuals and societal views of bisexuality. However, for the sake of time this semester, I am only focusing on mediated portrayals of bisexuality.

On a weekly basis I watch movies and television from 2000 to the present that contain bisexual characters. I have a running list of shows and movies to watch and take careful notes on what the characters are saying, what other characters are saying abo
ut them, and their actions. I then take these notes and try to find common themes and patterns among these characters. These notes will be used to perform a rhetorical analysis on my chosen characters.

This semester I’ve discovered how much there is to learn about bisexuality, particularly in mass media. Although I was concerned about the lack of evidence on this topic, conducting this research has shown me that there are definite patterns among bisexual characters and that most representations of bisexuality in mass media are extremely negative. Additionally, exploring bisexual characters in film and television has given me insight on societal views of bisexuality, how sexuality as a whole is constructed in mass media, and how heteronormativity is consistently upheld in mass media.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

URSP Student Luc Tran Researches the Role of Toxic Metabolite from Acetaminophen and NAPQI on Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

My name is Luc Tran and I am currently a senior within the Biology and Neuroscience Departments of George Mason University. My current OSCAR project is focused on the role of a toxic metabolite from acetaminophen, NAPQI, on the progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). IPF is a fatal lung disease that is associated with scarring of the lung tissue over time and increased secretion of collagen. My current project stemmed from my previous research regarding the role of oxidative phosphorylation on apoptosis of the IPF fibroblasts. I completed my previous project as a member of the Biology Research Semester in Dr. Geraldine Grant’s lab. Prior to the beginning of the Research Semester, I had to choose from three different labs to join. I chose Dr. Grant’s lab as my primary choice because her research directly dealt with a medical issue which best correlated with my future goal of medical school. By the end of this project, I could warn my future patients about the risks of acetaminophen and how it may contribute to the progression of IPF. I can also use my findings to help identify potential therapeutics to cure IPF.

From the Research Semester project to my OSCAR project, I have worked most closely with Sarah Bui, who is currently a PhD student within Dr. Grant’s lab. Sarah has always been there to guide me through my research. It is through her patient guidance and detailed directions that I have learned so much about the lab techniques and article readings. On a weekly basis, I have collected RNA from the fibroblasts and synthesized cDNA. Next, I performed quantitative PCRs to determine the effect of NAPQI on the expression level of certain IPF markers. I would like to thank Dr. Grant and Sarah for giving me this opportunity to improve my laboratory techniques, continue my IPF research, and expand my horizon in the fields of IPF and biochemical research. I hope to have the opportunity to continue my research in the summer.          

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

URSP Student Jenna Cann Researches Jupiter-sized Exoplanets

My name is Jenna Cann and I am a senior studying astronomy. One of the things that initially got me interested in astronomy, and my OSCAR project, is the idea that there are so many other worlds and places out in the Universe that are so different from what we see in everyday life on Earth.  My current project deals with Hot Jupiters, which are Jupiter-sized exoplanets that are orbiting very close to their host stars.  Despite having a sizable atmosphere that could feasibly circulate the heat this planet receives from its star, astronomers have found that there is a large day-night side temperature change – sometimes up to 1000K in magnitude.  My project deals with trying to find a physical mechanism to explain this.

This project has helped me confirm that I do want to continue on to a research-based PhD program.  The skills I’ve honed over the course of this semester, in modeling and theory, will prove invaluable as I start research at a higher level.  Besides working with my advisor here at GMU, Dr. Michael Summers, I also collaborate with an advisor, Dr. Prabal Saxena, at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center.  Visiting Goddard and working with my advisor there has provided me with several contacts that could be research collaborators in the future.

My project consists of several different parts, using both theory and models, so on any given week I spend almost equal amounts of time working out pen and paper derivations as I do running transit simulations or plotting real K2 data from the Kepler telescope.

This semester, I learned a lot about energy transfer and tidal processes in atmospheric physics.  I’ve also learned that a lot of the questions scientists are looking to answer about exoplanets were the same ones asked decades ago about Titan, Europa, and other planets and moons in our Solar System.  Knowing that we now know the answers to those questions with respect to Solar System bodies, despite them seeming so out of reach decades ago, it is extremely inspiring to think of what we can learn from the thousands of new exoplanets we’ve discovered so far.

Monday, May 22, 2017

URSP Student Marla Lauber Examines Relationships Between Different Elements of Personality, Creative Ability and Creative Activity

My name is MarLa and I am a senior at George Mason. I am majoring in Psychology and English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. Through my OSCAR project, I examine the relationships between different elements of personality and both creative ability and creative activity. More specifically, the personality is often divided into five qualities, called the Big Five, which an individual might either be high or low on. Because creativity is a much desired and highly marketable skill, much research has been done on different aspects of it, but to research to date only consistently correlates it with one of the five qualities. However, it may be that creativity have a nonlinear relationship with other characteristics within the Big Five, that have previously been overlooked due to a tendency of researchers to look strictly for linear correlations.
My OSCAR project was developed as a means of engaging with my passion for both of my majors. My interests in art (literary and visual) and psychology developed almost simultaneously, when I was very young. It is perhaps because of this that I came to think of creative production as a key component of the human experience, and developed the desire to understand it more completely.
I have been working on this project for what will be a year and a half at the end of this semester, and it has gone through immense changes. The data I will be analyzing will come from a larger study on psychological flexibility, led by my mentor, Dr. Todd Kashdan. My week consists of lab meetings, refinement of the surveys and interviews we will give our participants, and a great deal of reading, writing, and rewriting. In the coming weeks, we will begin running participants, at which point my duties will involve scheduling participants according to research assistant availability.
This term I have learned a lot about the process of conducting and then presenting research. Specifically, I have gained a substantial amount of experience writing abstracts and considering the genre differences between posters and papers. I could not have learned any of those things with the theory alone; this program has given me the chance to learn by doing, for which I am very grateful.

Friday, May 19, 2017

URSP Student Mercy Wheeler Analyzes Potential Correlations Between Long Distance

My name is Mercy Wheeler, and I am a senior in the Communication department. My OSCAR project is a survey study that seeks connections and potential correlations between satisfaction in long distance relationships and computer mediated communication channel choice. Computer mediated communication channels are any and all methods of communication that are mediated via a computer, such as instant messaging, Skyping and audio calls; and many long distance relationships rely solely on these methods to communicate. While this may sound somewhat complicated, the reason that I chose the topic is rooted in personal experience. The picture is of myself and my partner, and we’ve been long distance for the entire duration of the relationship. When I began studying interpersonal relationships in my communication courses, I was curious to see if there had been studies done on relationships like mine. To my surprise and sadness, there was and still is an incredible lack of credible research done on long distance relationships. When I was given the opportunity to create my own study, I immediately chose this subject because of the need for research and my own personal experience in the subject.

Over the course of this research project, I’ve learned how to create an effective and ethical survey that has both validity and reliability. This is a skill that I’ve learned to be a relative rarity and incredibly helpful in my internships and current positions when my employers want feedback from their customers, and I expect it to continue to be a helpful skill in the future. I’m hoping that the data collected will be helpful for future studies in long distance relationships as well.

On a weekly basis, my time is dedicated to refining my literature review, working on survey questions and ensuring the validity of the questions asked, and in the coming weeks most of my time will be dedicated to analyzing and verifying my collected data.

One important thing that I learned over the course of this term is that part of research is uncertainty. Even though I’m incredibly invested in my study because of the academic value and the personal nature of the topic, I am still very uncertain about what kinds of responses I’ll have and if any of it will be interesting or surprising. Despite this, I have learned to accept what I cannot control and take my data as it comes, without the expectation that I’ll find anything groundbreaking at first glance. Flexibility and forgoing expectations about results will ultimately make my research less biased and more objective.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

URSP Student Nicholas Sanders Creates and Checks the Viability of Devices Using Computer Designs Programs

My original interest in beginning this project stemmed from a desire to attain a more in depth knowledge on the workings of the brain on the cellular level.  With a greater understanding of how the human brain functions, from a biochemistry perspective, I believe I will be better able to achieve
my future goal of working in the field of psychiatry.

The work that I am currently undergoing involves creating a device using several computer design programs, checking the design for validity between programs, actually creating the design physically, and then checking for viability of the design.  If there are any errors or unintended outcome during any stage I then circle back to the last successful stage and begin again.

Over the course of this semester I have discovered that the more intricate a design is the more difficult it can be to produce.  This semester’s goal of creating more nuanced and a larger quantities of devices has been hindered by the exponentially more difficult task of bringing the designs to a viable end state as the margin for error on each system is within the scale of microns. This project may have applications in a variety of instances, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and spinal cord/nerve cell regeneration.  With continued perseverance, and a bit of luck, the results of this work may be published and put to further use of other scientist in their respective field in the very near future.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

URSP Student Katherine Marsh Uses the POMS and PSS Evaluation Methods

Under the Mentorship of Dr. James Metcalf, I am looking at the relationship between injuries and stress in student-athletes at George Mason University. By utilizing the POMS and PSS evaluation methods, I am looking to see if there is a difference in stress experienced by student-athletes who are injured and those who are not injured. 
I first became interested in my research topic as a freshman when I experienced an injury that kept me out of competition for the majority of the season. After speaking with some of my peers who have experienced similar situations, I began to realize that our day-to-day lives were affected dramatically by our injuries. No longer being able to participate in the sport we have dedicated so much time to, not being able to exercise at the same intensity as we have become accustomed to, and missing out on the social aspect of team bonding during practice and competition are just a few of the common themes we all seemed to notice having an impact on our daily lives. 
I then began to wonder if consequent these circumstances, our mental health, was being adversely affected. While countless hours are spent in the training room rehabbing injuries to get athletes back in competition, there are little to no resources provided by the athletic department to insure that the mental health of the athlete is cared for as much as the physical injury. 
While my project is still in the early stages of development, I hope to bring light to the issue of mental health in athletics, specifically, in student-athletes here at George Mason University. I would like to see more mental health resources made available to student-athletes, especially those who have endured an injury that has limited their participation in their sport. 
Eventually, I would like to see these resources as easily accessible and utilized as often as grabbing an ice bag after practice.