Friday, March 20, 2020

URSP Student Mitch Martinez Works to Research and Develop a Cyber Reconnaissance Working Dog System

Working dogs often play a niche role in various military operations and investigations. They are are historically recognized for their unique sensory and search capabilities in which humans have vitally depended on. Growing up, working dogs have always been an integral part of my life. My dad was a former explosives canine handler and division specialist. In Fall 2019, I was looking for a course project that I could use to simultaneously further my experience outside of the classroom. So, I decided to look at what I already knew. I discovered that non-line-of-sight (NLOS) canine control was well sought after by handlers and that little research had been conducted involving working dogs in the cyber domain. I initiated a plan of research and began reaching out to canine trainers and relevant researchers. I asked my professor, Dr. Winston, to mentor a project that bridges the gap between working dogs and cybersecurity.

Despite recent developments in artificial intelligence and an increased emphasis on robotics, nothing compares to the to the portability, agility, and trainability of working dogs in mission environments.  By developing a mobile low-power signal and packet gathering sniffer, harness-wearing working dogs would be able to directly contribute to passive reconnaissance operations as the delivery device to areas of interest.  Once the dog reaches the target location and hides, operatives would then be able to remotely execute probing commands and automated scripts utilizing modern hacking software and log analysis tools. However, long distance off leash handler-to-canine communication remains a challenge. 

Nevertheless, based on current canine training practices, this project aiming to solve the dilemma by integrating established lidar, radar, and GPS technologies coupled with wireless signal capturing capabilities. Following a ‘just enough data’ paradigm, fault tolerant NLOS communication between handler and canine may be achieved

By utilizing a smartphone, microcomputer, and software-defined radio, remote communication via audio frequencies and harness vibrations may be established over a peer-to-peer LTE network supported by machine learning detection algorithms and signal engineering techniques. The development of this technology would provide governments and agencies a niche risk averse alternative to unmanned-aerial-vehicles and hardware dead drops. The intended cyber psychical system use-cases are for discrete night operations where human-threatening boundaries are present. Working dogs may be the most reliable and non-invasive weapon for delivering cyber reconnaissance tools in these scenarios.

Monday, March 16, 2020

URSP Student Ellie Carlson Researches the Experiences of Mobile Food Venders in Washington D.C

Last spring, I conducted a research project about the experiences of mobile food vendors in Washington, D.C., through OSCAR’s URSP.  My favorite part of this experience, by far, was the data collection phase.  On a typical day of collecting data, I would canvass food truck hotspots around the city and interview vendors during the downtime before the lunch rush.  Vendors shared their stories, offered tips and tricks of the trade, and gave me the lowdown on what’s happening in the vending community. At one point, I was even recruited on board to help cater to a sudden crowd of tourists!  

While there were many laughs, almost everyone shared their struggles since the city enacted more restrictive vending policies.  Many traditional street vendors disclosed multiple arrests, criminal charges, and excessive fines as a result.  On the other hand, many gourmet food truck drivers shared stories of success and how they expanded their businesses despite the change in policy. This contrast begged the question: why are the experiences of mobile food vendors who operate in the same industry, governed by the same set of rules, so different? As it turns out, my findings from last year raised more questions than answers that I hope to address in continuing my research this semester.  

 Overall, my URSP experience enhanced my education in so many ways. It enabled me to follow my curiosity, challenge myself as a student, and explore a different career path that I would never imagine considering. It also gave me a chance to engage with student researchers from various disciplines.  I found it incredibly inspiring and motivating to join a community where everyone is just as excited about following their curiosities. Finally, this experience fostered a greater appreciation for my education. It offered me a unique vantage point where I could see the culmination of all the knowledge and skill that I’ve worked so hard for throughout my years at Mason. This makes it all worthwhile.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

URSP Student Allison Dockum Explores the Differences in the Tibialis Anterior between Able-Bodied and Drop Foot Subjects Using Sonomyography

The goal of my project is to image the muscular differences in the tibialis anterior (located in the shin) between able-bodied and drop foot patients using sonomyography, also referred to as ultrasound. This will be done as a first step in my long-term goal to create an alternative method for the treatment of drop foot. Drop foot (sometimes called foot drop) is a neuromuscular condition that prevents a person from lifting their foot in dorsiflexion during the heel strike phase of the gait cycle. Current treatments include ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) and functional electrical stimulation (FES). However, both treatments are limited in their ability to provide a long-term therapeutic treatment of the condition. A therapeutic treatment improves muscle function over time and helps the patient regain independence. Eventually, I would like to combine the AFO and FES treatments in new, hybrid device, hopefully able to provide a novel therapeutic treatment. 

I am passionate about this research from my own personal experience with drop foot. Frustrated by the inefficiencies with AFO’s, I decided to create my own. I learned along the way how FES was being used to treat drop foot and decided to incorporate it into my design. The mentorship of Dr. Siddhartha Sikdar and PhD student Joseph Madji have helped me explore my interests and taught me how to frame a scientific research project. I am grateful for their guidance.

Throughout the week, I spend my time reading various journal articles and modifying my research approach and questions. I collect data using pulse echo ultrasound and continuous wave doppler of the tibialis anterior, and then perform some preliminary data analysis in Matlab and LabView. 
From this experience, I have learned everything is not always as straight forward as it would seem. There are often multiple sub-questions that must be answered before reaching the end goal, and sometimes you may have to back track or perform the experiment again. Patience is key.

Monday, March 2, 2020

URSP Student Maggie Walker Researches AZE Threatened species

The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) identifies the world’s most vulnerable species. These species are considered endangered or critically endangered and only have one remaining population in one location. These locations are known as AZE sites, a designation which allows them to be prioritized for conservation efforts. AZE species are all considered endangered or critically endangered. However, threatened species can also be listed as near threatened, vulnerable, or extinct in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

For my URSP project, I am working with Dr. Luther and the Biology Department using Geographic Information Systems to compare a global map of AZE sites with global data on all categories of threatened species. We will analyze the data to determine how many other non-AZE threatened species exist at each site, what percentage of threatened species are and are not covered by AZE sites, and how many are already in protected areas, along with other breakdowns. Since AZE sites already receive special conservation attention, we are hoping to demonstrate that by protecting these sites, other threatened species would also be protected. This project is very timely as this year the global Convention on Biological Diversity is expected to adopt a Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework in its efforts to work towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. As decisions are made for the future of conservation, it is important that world leaders have all the information necessary to do what is best for our planet and its species.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

URSP Student Julie Demyanovich Researches the Factors Associated with Student Game Development Success

In Spring 2019, I was selected for undergraduate funding, and I conducted an exploratory study about the factors associated with student game development team success. Students in team projects were asked to fill out surveys at three different points of the game development process. This project was founded on the idea of finding creative ways to take a multi-disciplinary approach that blend the fields of psychology and computer game design in an academic setting. An interesting finding was the progression of skill confidence between the beginning, middle, and end of team projects. The continuing research this semester is an investigation into the relationship between experience, confidence, and expectations of obtaining a job upon graduation. The biggest difference between this study and similar studies is that the participants are undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from 4-year game design programs within the past 5 years. 

As a game producer and psychology researcher, I want to find creative ways to engage others and motivate them towards achieving higher levels of success. Through this study, I am gaining insight on how game design students view their skills before and after graduation in a cross-sectional study. I will use this knowledge to contribute to the game design program here at the university and continue to enhance my experience in working with others through organizational leadership.

Every Week, I communicate with my mentor, Dr. Seth Hudson. I am also working with the professors in the game design program and recent graduates to gather responses to the survey. Upon receiving the responses, I analyze and write-up the data for publication. This semester, I have become better acquainted with research methodology and publishing findings. I have also become familiar with the process of applying to conferences. I would like to thank Dr. Seth Hudson, the Computer Game Design program, and OSCAR for their continued support throughout my studies.

Monday, February 24, 2020

URSP Student Julia Baines Explores the Relationship between Advice-Seeking Propensity and Self-Efficacy at Work

My enthusiasm for industrial and organizational psychology and my work with my advisor Dr. Dalal and PhD student Balca Alaybek helped inform the topic of my OSCAR project. The goal of this study is to expand research on advice-seeking by providing necessary insight into the relationship between advice-seeking propensity and self-efficacy (self-perceived competence) at work. My research will examine the conditions under which asking for advice from others results in people feeling more versus less confident about their own abilities. I hope to address the concern that habitually asking other for advice might lead to lower perceptions of one’s own efficacy at work. My study will examine employees in jobs of varying levels of complexity and employees with different lengths of job experience (i.e., tenure). These two variables are likely to have considerable moderating effects on the relationship between advice-seeking and self-efficacy (self-perceived competence) in the workplace. 

This project is closely related to my long-term goals in that I would love to further pursue the topic of advice-seeking or related topics in a PhD program. Conducting this project has allowed me to develop my passion for research and explore my specific research interests in greater detail. I meet with my advisor to discuss my project and go over status updates weekly. Since I am currently collecting data, there is a lot to talk about! My daily schedule includes checking incoming data to make sure there are no (or minimal) abnormalities and trying to stay up to date on relevant literature. On a large scale, this project has impressed upon me the value of organization! When conducting research, it is important to have a name and a place for every document, paper, and data set. Staying organized is instrumental in productive and successful research. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

URSP Student Hannah Johns Explores the Connection Between the Cost of the War in Colombia and the Value of the Biodiversity Present in the Country

I study the environment, through the perspective of analyzing the impacts it can relay on people. Studying people and culture is the most striking topic to me, and I knew my goal for research was to study the vulnerabilities the environment can project upon people, especially vulnerable populations such as indigenous people. Through my process in OSCAR, I became more interested in the study of environmental security, which utilizes people in planning and mediating the effects that war and violence can impose on the environment and natural resources, and which in turn will have larger effects on all people. I decided to study environmental security in Latin America, and if there is a connection between the cost of the war in Colombia and the value of the biodiversity present in the country.

To stay weekly engaged with my project I would find new sources, through the Mason Library databases, to contribute to the background, and context necessary for my research on the country of Colombia and its 50-year war. I also continued to learn more about the field of environmental security and the theories involved. During this time, I also received approval for my interview process from the Institutional Review Board, so that I would be able to include interviews in my project from indigenous people, and environmental scholars from Colombia that I would meet at the Nature for Climate Hub conference.

While I was attending the conference in September, I learned more about the solutions and projects that were being achieved by the scholars featured. These studies expanded on everything I had originally learned in the classroom, which caused me to be able to synthesize and connect the fields of environmental science, conflict analysis, and of anthropology. I also met many renowned scholars and individuals who talked about impactful topics such as Laudato Si, which is a very influential religious writing on the need for human action and care during the time of climate change and human degradation. The more I have spent time with my topic and talking to people living in the conflict, the more I become interested in being able to one day to travel to Colombia and to learn everything I can.

Friday, January 10, 2020

URSP Student Hannah Harmison Represents Queer Community in Children's Media

As a queer storyteller, I feel it is important to represent queer people in media, including children’s media. I had an idea for a children’s web series in my in my back pocket for two years, so when I decided I was in a position to produce it, I brought it to OSCAR. In my web series, I specifically set out to present kids with characters who were not cisgender, because at that time, children’s content exclusively featured cisgender characters. I knew from personal experience that gender is not an ‘adult’ topic, even young children think about gender. My two closest friends are not cisgender and they both work with children professionally. Their students have little to no issue using correct pronouns and accepting their gender identities. First, I needed to determine which age group would find this representation relevant, appropriate, and meaningful. Through my research, I found that the ideal age range is three to six years old. Thus, 25 Dandelion Drive, a web series for a preschool audience, began preproduction.

On this web series I served as writer, producer, and director. This production fits into my career goals because I would like to eventually work as a television writer. I have always enjoyed writing children’s content, so that is one genre I am considering pursuing. I will be able to use this series to demonstrate to production companies, potential employers, that I am a conscientious and capable writer and producer. The skills I have sharpened as a producer are relevant to may positions I could pursue in film development.

On a weekly basis, I meet with my mentor professor and check in with different members of my crew. Beyond that, the tasks vary from week to week. In the beginning of the semester, I was writing the episodes. Now at the end of the semester, I’m organizing receipts, making sure everyone gets reimbursed, and giving directors notes to my animators.

This term I discovered some of my strengths and weaknesses as a producer and as a director. For example, I’m good at coordinating and organizing people, but I need improvement in articulating my artistic vision to my director of photography. In general, this project gave me an opportunity to improve my skills as a filmmaker.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

URSP Student Maanvi Vij Uses Magnetic Nanoparticles and Neurons in Hopes of Controlling Neuronal Firing

Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers present in the body that continuously work together to keep us functioning. Many neurodegenerative and mental disorders’ root cause are the absence or delayed firing of neurotransmitters. Since Spring of 2019, I have been working with magnetic nanoparticles and neurons with the end goal of being able to control neuronal firing. I was introduced to this project when I joined Dr. Peixoto’s lab but later I was able to make a deeper connection with my work. My family has a long history of mental disorders, and on my last trip to India, I was able to see my grandparents after five years. Unfortunately, my grandmother has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia since before I was born, and recently it has taken a complete toll on her life. Turning my frustration into fuel, I am driven to use these personal experiences as motivation for the challenges I face in the lab.

This semester I chose to focus specifically on the process of the uptake of nanoparticles by the neurons via phagocytosis. Prefrontal cortex cells were harvested from embryonic mice through a surgery performed in the lab and then were plated on microelectrode arrays that are able to track the production of action potentials by the neurons. After a week in vitro, two different types of nanoparticles were used. The first being iron oxide gold-capped nanoparticles and the second being the same except coated with poly(ethylene)glycol (PEG), in hopes of increasing the chances of uptake by the cells. High imaging and videos of the nanoparticles interacting with the neurons when induced by a strong magnetic field by imposing strong magnets are the methods of data retrieval. Results showed that the nanoparticles coated with PEG were more likely to be up taken by the cells. Moving forward, I hope to view these interactions with greater magnification to observe the nanoparticles in the cells in greater detail.

Working in Dr. Peixoto’s lab and on this project has enabled me to push myself in ways that I could not have before and become more comfortable with taking risks. I have developed my passions of inquisitiveness and investigation here which are qualities that will serve to be ever so purposeful throughout my academic and professional career.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

URSP Student Renata Urbina De La Flor Investigates the Impact of Healthcare and Education Costs on Poverty

During the 2018 fall semester I took INTS 300: Law and Justice, a course which taught students how to read Supreme Court cases and better understand the law. One of the cases we read was San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez(1973), a case on wealth inequality and equal opportunity to education for the poor. Our professor asked us “what would the U.S. be like today if the Court had sided with Rodriguez and protected wealth?”. She told us that things like health care and education would be free. Her commentary made me curious to know more about the legal status of wealth so that I could base my arguments on facts instead of beliefs or opinions.

The goal of my research project is to change the current perspective of the law on poverty—as of right now, in the United States, discriminating against the poor is legal. I would like to one day have a book on wealth inequality which would explain all the ways in which the current system structurally discriminates against the poor citizens of the United States. Once having received my B.S. degree from George Mason University, I hope to continue my studies at law school. There, I plan to continue my research and find methods to reduce discrimination against the poor. In the future, my goal is to have a business law firm with the purpose of supporting individuals in creating and protecting their own business—I believe that owning your own business, not only supports the economy, but also connects the individual to the economy and to the society.

During the week, I spend an average of 49 hours between reading legal cases, books from social and economic theorists, watching TEDx talks, and organizing all the work I have collected—since I am using similar materials and resources for my capstone project, I am constantly reading and analyzing material on wealth inequality. Conducting my research has made me aware of many things and of many theorists I did not know of before—theorists like Dr. Cornel West, a theorist who has amazing work on the American society and on social movements. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to conduct my own independent research at GMU and am excited to see where it takes me.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

URSP Student Daniel Sovine Tests an Alarm that Would Recognize the Unique Sound of a Gun and Set It Off Using FFT

When I began my first semester as an electrical engineering student, I took Calculus I which was being taught by my future mentor. There was a day in class when he had a small tangent and mentioned a project that might interest any student in ECE or engineering students. It was an alarm that would recognize the unique sound of a gun and set it off using FFT. I wasn’t too interested at the time but I kept it in the back of my head. After the months of terrible news coverage of gun violence, it was brought to my attention again by my future partner in the project. We met with my professor and he introduced us to the URSP program. 

Before this project, I was not involved in any large research project. As I’ve progressed through our project, I became more familiar with the research process as a whole. Although all research projects are different and an engineering project is drastically different from a biology project or a sociology project, I feel like I would enjoy this environment for a while. I really went into this curious to see how I would feel about research and if I could pursue it further for the rest of my college career. I hope as I continue on to other projects, I remember what I did for my Shooting Detection Alarm System this semester.

This semester was a very stressful one for my course load. I had to learn how to balance my URSP project with my projects from classes and work. It taught me a lot about time management and what I am capable of. I normally contact my partner, whos in Pennsylvania, through Facetime and we discuss the research that we did between the time of the last talk. I would have all of the materials for the hardware base system and he would take care of most of the software. We had to find a better way of working together, so we used a VNC server to connect the system across networks. If we weren’t waiting for the parts or took a break for midterms, we’d be working on the project each week. We spent most of September waiting on parts to come in the mail. We did most of the fast fourier transform Matlab work in October. In November, we hit a dead end with the audio neural network. However, now we are working with the image of the frequency domain in the neural networks and it’s settling much better than the audio neural networks.

If there was one thing that this term taught me, it would be that plans are never concrete. Things don’t always go as you expect them to. This is especially true in any research project. You may not get approval for your project in time, or you might not get your parts in time. The ability to mold to the circumstances that are out of your hands is a skill that I have gained from this project. That is not to say that you should change your plan too much, it just means that you have to work with how things are.

Monday, January 6, 2020

URSP Student Cole Price Studies the Experiences of Sexual Minorities in Social Fraternities

This semester I conducted a USRP project studying the experiences of sexual minorities in social fraternities, specifically how they navigate their identities and self-presentations in a traditionally heterosexual environment. As a junior majoring in Psychology with a concentration in Clinical Psychology, I have always been interested in the intersections between inequality, social environment and mental processes. I hope to continue my work shining light on underrepresented and under-researched populations, such as gay and bisexual men in fraternities, throughout my undergraduate and graduate careers. The majority of this past semester was spent recruiting subjects for the study and collecting data in the form of roughly hour-long interviews. Participants were found through word of mouth and advertisements I put up around campus, and after contact, we would set up a time to meet at Fenwick for a sit down. I learned a lot doing this kind of qualitative research, and I feel my interviewing skills have improved exponentially since my first interview. I also learned a lot from the men I talked to; their interests, goals, the bonds they share with their brothers, and their experiences as sexual minorities at George Mason University, just to start.

After completing around seven interviews, they were transcribed, and I began coding them, looking for examples of themes I have derived from literature related to the subject, as well as new patterns I have seen emerge in my conversations. This process has given me the opportunity to engage with previous works written on Greek life and the fraternity system, sexual orientation, and social psychology at a depth I never had the chance to before in my classes.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

URSP Student John Perkins Researches the Further Characterizing Genomes of Bacteriophage Discovered at Mason

My name is John Perkins, and I am a Senior here at George Mason, finishing my second-to-last semester this Fall. In the Spring, I will be graduating with a BS in Biology with a concentration in Bioinformatics and a minor in Computational and Data Sciences. My OSCAR URSP project involves further understanding bacteriophages that we discovered in BIOL-401 in the Fall of 2018. Bacteriophages are viruses that exclusively infect bacteria, and even though there are an enormous number of them, they have been relatively understudied. I isolated one of these phages myself from a soil sample I had taken, purified it, and extracted its DNA. After its genome was sequenced, we found the genes in the DNA and tried to figure out what they each did. This “annotation” used several different types of computer techniques, so while we could make strong and supported hypotheses, there was an opportunity to confirm them by studying the phages experimentally and seeing if our annotations were correct. One of the things that interested me the most was an idiosyncratic feature of one type of phage gene.

During our annotation, I had developed a bioinformatic method that helped identify the likely site of an ORF shift within the Tail Assembly Chaperone (TAC) gene. These genes frequently contain an unusual feature called a Programmed Translational Frameshift (PTF) that makes them difficult to annotate. Using the python script, I wrote, we were able to determine where we thought the PTF was in the TAC gene. For my URSP project, I wanted to characterize the gene expression proteomic ally using a technique called Tandem Mass Spectrometry. This would confirm whether or not we made the right calls in our annotations, as well as in our TAC gene. This project interested me because of the combination of hands-on work in a lab as well as computational analysis. OSCAR also gave me a chance to continue the work I had started in the phage classes last year. I have a very real sense of ownership over this project; I discovered the phage, I wrote the software, and I did the work to further the annotation. Having a project like this under my belt will help me stand out in the future.

Friday, January 3, 2020

URSP Student Durwood Moore works on the Validation of Mouse Models through the Scoring of Fibrosis in Histological Sections and the Identification of Fibroblast Infiltration of Murine Alveolar Tissue using Immunocytochemistry

My name is Durwood Moore and I am a senior Biology student here at George Mason. In the Fall of 2018, I participated in the Biology Department’s Fall Research Semester, where I was able to work with Dr. Geraldine Grant, a phenomenal biology professor. Dr. Grant’s lab focuses on researching a lung disease known as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, or IPF.IPF is an interstitial lung disease characterized by the unregulated build-up of scar tissue and over-abundance of fibroblasts. During that semester, I gained valuable technical and analytical skills that I will carry with me through graduate school and into my future career as a medical researcher. As that semester came to a close, I decided that I wanted to continue researching IPF, so I volunteered in Dr. Grant’s lab in the Spring of 2019 and applied for OSCAR funding for the Fall of 2019. 

This semester, I am validating a mouse model that our lab has been developing, as well as investigating the role of cellular senescence in the progression of IPF. Through a variety of staining techniques, I was able to observe the changes to the mouse lung architecture. My semester started by troubleshooting the different techniques that I would be using. After making sure that the protocols were optimized, I would prepare the lungs samples, stain them, and then image the samples. Often, my day involved sitting in front of a microscope for hours on end and carefully searching each sample for evidence of fibrosis. One of the most exciting things that I learned to do this semester was to quantify the fluorescence of certain stains and normalize the data before comparing treatment groups. I hope to apply the technical and analytical skills that I have learned during my time here at George Mason to create new knowledge and to improve the lives of other people.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

URSP Student Dina Michel Investigates the Anomalous Hall Effect to Find Materials Which Overcome Silicon’s Limitations in Order to Push Technology Forward

I am a senior in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and I participated in condensed matter physics research this semester thanks to my URSP funding. In my project, I investigated how the Anomalous Hall Effect (AHE) seen inCoNb3S6was affected when I doped the compound with 10% iron (Fe) in order to create Co0.9Fe0.1Nb3S6. I first got interested in this project when I saw a presentation that my now-mentor Dr. Nirmal Ghimire gave about the importance of researching quantum materials. The technologies that govern our everyday lives rely on silicon, which will soon reach its limit. The solution is to find materials which overcome silicon’s limitations in order to push technology forward–the applications of research in this field would eventually make quantum computers a reality!

I hope to pursue graduate studies in physics, so participating in this project has helped me to prepare for that next step in my academic career by allowing me to conduct an impactful and innovative research project as an undergraduate. On a weekly basis, I worked in the lab almost daily to synthesize crystals, prepare suitable samples for measurement, and measure their properties –in particular, the Hall effect. At the same time, I continued reading papers and books relevant to the subject of my research in order to build a solid foundation of knowledge of the topic. Over the course of the semester, I learned that conducting research is unpredictable–often we end up doing work that is different than what we had originally set out to do. I have also improved my time management and my ability to communicate scientific topics to a general audience –skills that I will find useful in any professional as well as academic setting in the future.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

URSP Student Lucia Bautista Researches the Informal Employment of Syrian Refugees in Turkey’s Textile and Garment Industry

My name is Lucia Bautista, and I am a senior majoring in Global Affairs with a concentration in Global Inequalities &Responses. For my GLOA Honors project, I am researching Turkey’s lucrative textile and garment industry, where hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees labor under exploitative conditions as uncontracted employees. More specifically, I examine how Turkey’s government and private sector interact to shape working conditions and precarious livelihoods for vulnerable Syrian workers. What sparked this idea was a course I took while studying abroad last semester at Oxford University. My professor at the time, Dr. Emre Korkmaz, inspired my project idea through one of my assignments that concerned low wages and poor working conditions in informal economies. When I arrived back at Mason and began my project, I noticed that two prominent themes across the literature I was reading were the concepts ‘precarity’ and ‘state-capital nexus.’ I have chosen process tracing as my principal methodology, which, in essence, is a qualitative method that determines the strength of evidence for causal relationships through probability testing. Within a single-case design, process tracing explains how different variables caused an outcome and confronts rival hypotheses to legitimize its case. I am systematizing data from the Turkish Government, UNHCR, and the World Integrated Trade Solution (among a few others) and testing for precarious labor, a contested state belonging and shared state and capital pursuits. In doing so, I will propose linkages between the implementation, reinforcement, and intentionality of informal labor in the textile and garment industry.

Each week varies in terms of what I do, but reading and re-reading is a must. It is essential that I fully understand the pre-existing scholarship so that I can probably analyze the quantitative aspects of my project, validate the trends I am testing for, and pair each part with its complementary literature. For a few weeks in the middle of the semester, I shifted my focus also to include researching statistics from the past few decades. The statistics I have gathered have provided insight into the working permits Turkey has issued to Syrian refugees and the industrial impact of Turkey’s textile & garment sector. Now, in the final weeks of this semester, I am focusing on creating the line graphs and other infographics for my poster. I am excited to share the findings of my project, as I believe that they address numerous gaps in the discussion of the global garment industry and the comparative advantage that a vulnerable working class of people provides. This project has deepened my knowledge of the garment industry. As I continue to work towards becoming a labor rights lawyer, it has enabled me to develop better analysis skills.