Wednesday, April 26, 2017

URSP Student Connor Reid Studies and Evaluates American History Narratives Regarding the Plymouth Colony

My name is Connor Reid. I’m a sophomore here at GMU majoring in Government and International Politics and minoring in Religious Studies. Since I was young, I have always had an interest in history, and through OSCAR I have been given an excellent opportunity to explore this interest. This semester I am studying American historical narratives regarding the Plymouth Colony and evaluating those narratives by utilizing under-studied comprehensive town records of Plymouth Colony settlements. 

My project involves reading and identifying important passages to contribute to a larger narrative of the Plymouth Colony. To achieve this, I have been going a book of records ever two or so weeks, and regulary meeting with my mentor for questions or clarification. So far, my greatest discovery has been learning first-hand just how much life changed in the Plymouth Colony over time – outside changes were rapid and the Pigrims were forced to increasingly adapt to the new world around them. 
This project has allowed me to expand possibilities after GMU and gives me valuable analytical, research, and writing skills that would be useful in almost any career or graduate program post-graduation, and I am very thankful to OSCAR for this opportunity.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

URSP Student Daniel Cairnie Studies the Binding of Pharma-chemicals to Aquatic Humic Substances (AHS)

My name is Dan Cairnie and I am a senior chemistry major pursuing research in the field of environmental chemistry. Right around the time of Spring 2016, I really started to enjoy my experience in the lab because of all the instruments I learned how to use in my classes. The instrument I enjoyed the most (and still do) was the fluorescence spectrophotometer, also known as a fluorimeter. For some inexplicable reason, I love looking at the spectrophotometer output the peaks and troughs that come with a great sample reading. With the current research I am doing, I have the pleasure of seeing those peaks and troughs every day I enter the lab. I am fortunate enough work alongside Dr. Greg Foster in a project that studies the quenching effect of a commonly used pharmaceutical, carbamazepine (CBZ), on humic and fulvic acids (HA and FA) found in water bodies. By studying these interactions, we can gain a better understanding of the binding characteristics between the CBZ and HA/FA components.

I usually come into Dr. Foster’s laboratory on the weekends to experiment, since it is quiet and I am a bit more relaxed. However, most of the time I spend in the lab is dedicated to preparing solutions to run with the fluorimeter. It brings up recent memories of working in the chemistry department’s stock room, where preparing various solutions precisely was a staple in my routine there. While this process is certainly tedious and time-consuming, the joy I get when I finally see an accurate spectrum that supports literature makes everything worth it. So far, I have discovered that in dilute concentrations of CBZ and HA/FA, a much simpler quenching model, known as the Stern-Volmer equation, can be used in place of an extensive multivariate analysis. This multivariate analysis, known as the Ryan-Weber model, requires the mathematical programming software, MATLAB, in order to attain more quantitative insights on how HA/FA binds with CBZ. Using the Ryan-Weber model in experimentation is my ultimate goal once the Stern-Volmer method of analysis is perfected. Humic and fulvic acids are an integral part of the environmental remediation process, and with our research, we aim to understand how this can be affected by pharma-chemicals and what can be done long-term to mitigate any negative consequences.

Monday, April 24, 2017

URSP Student Margaret Sobeski Researches Biomarkers of Inflammation in a Mouse Model with Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

My name is Margaret Sobeski. I am currently a junior majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry at George Mason University. For my OSCAR project, I will be focusing on biomarkers of inflammation in a mouse model with late onset Alzheimer’s disease. My interest in Alzheimer’s disease began my sophomore year of high school when I started volunteering at the local retirement home. Once a week I would sit and talk for hours with Alzheimer’s patients where I became familiar with their behaviors and aware of how much the illness affected their loved ones. I quickly realized the devastation that came with the disease and became determined to get more involved. When I got to George Mason, I decided to major in Neuroscience and involve myself in innovative research related to neurodegenerative diseases. I joined Dr. Flinn’s lab as an undergraduate research assistant where I was encouraged to propose a research question of my own. I hope to use the skills and experiences I gain from this OSCAR project as I start applying to medical schools next year. On a weekly basis, I perform western blots on the brain tissue of mice with late onset AD. Western blotting is a well-established technique that identifies the presence of specific proteins from a more convoluted assortment of proteins in a cell. Although western blotting does not provide an exact number of desired protein present in the tissue, it will aid in my research by indicating whether or not the inflammatory proteins are in fact present in the brain tissue. In addition, it will determine whether late onset mice contain more or less inflammatory protein species. One thing I discovered thus far is that developing a research question is the easy part! Ordering your supplies and remembering to ask yourself what you are doing and why you are doing it is what makes someone a successful scientist. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

URSP Student Laurel Robinson Conducts Secondary Data Analysis on Employment for Previously Incarcerated Individuals

This semester, I am conducting secondary data analysis on employment for previously incarcerated individuals. I am looking at the first industry of employment for people that have just ended their prison sentence, and if those industries that are hiring ex-offenders varies dependent on the race/ethnicity and sex of the individual.

I became interested in my research for two reasons. First, it was a great intersection of my two majors, criminology and sociology. It took a criminological topic, incarceration and reentry, and looked at it through a sociological lens. Second, I wanted to challenge myself to become more comfortable working with data analysis and quantitative work, as content and qualitative is much more of my comfort zone. To be completely honest, I was inspired by watching one of my favorite shows Chopped on the Food Network! There were always professional chefs who, either in their spare time or as a full-time job worked with previously incarcerated individuals in the kitchen. This sparked my interest not only due to my studies, but also just general intrigue as to why the food industry would be such a hot spot for those with criminal convictions. I wanted to see if this was just a stigma I created due to my experiences, or if it was really a phenomenon.

I hope to work heavily in non-profits in my life, hoping to one day run a non-profit dream child that intersects food, helping those in need, and providing employment opportunities to unique individuals. This research is giving me an incredible knowledge foundation to take into the real world with me, whether I am employed in a research based position or a non-profit.

On a weekly basis, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, trying to get the coding right for my statistical analysis. I am self-taught on SPSS, so a lot of time at the beginning was just figuring out how to get the program to do what I wanted it to. I also meet with my mentor on a weekly basis to check in and answer my many, many questions.

This project this semester has inspired me that every bit of research counts and helps contribute to the larger picture. I do not think that my research is going to create an executive order anytime soon, but it is just another puzzle piece in the criminology and sociology field to help understand and analyze how crime and incarceration affect and shape our society.