Monday, November 25, 2013

URSP Student Houda Kerkoub Researches Big Data Analysis of Irregular Operations

The research I am working on interests me on various levels. It starts by aligning with my personal vision. I want to work in aviation safety because I hope to bring a positive addition to the existing efforts done by the aviation community. On the other hand, prior to joining the research center at  Mason, I had three years of work experience as a flight instructor and this project offers me the rare opportunity to use my knowledge in aviation. As well, during my professional experience I had the chance to work with engineers. I was very impressed by their clarity of thinking and their ability to simplify complex materials using quantitative methods. I feel that this research is allowing me to do what those engineers were doing.

On a weekly basis, I either look at the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) reports to translate qualitative data - described by pilot, engineers, flight attendant, or air traffic controllers - into quantitative data that identifies the different causes of aborted approaches. Or I analyze an aviation related iPad app produced by Honeywell. This app has a good potential to be used by pilots as an additional tool for flight planning or for heightened situation awareness. My job is to simulate scenarios and analyze the app. I am doing so using an analysis tool developed by my mentor called Task Specification Language (TSL) where I decompose each operator action into a 6 functions (ID Task, Select Function, Access, Enter, and Verify/Execute) then I identify the cues presented to the operator at each function. At a later stage the gathered cues will be accessed depending on their degree of salience.

The one thing that I discovered this week is the availability of very interesting databases through the Mason Library. One that stood up is called the Transportation Information Database (TRID) and I intend to use it for my research.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

URSP Student Emily Walker Researches Possible Factors Influencing Students with Artificial Learning Task

            Upon coming to Mason, I knew I wanted to get involved in linguistics, and specifically, research. I have always found human language to be a fascinating subject, especially the capabilities we are born with versus what we acquire. After trying to get involved in linguistics at Mason, I was able to meet with a professor.
            Finally, I was put into contact with Dr. Culbertson. I became interested in the project after meeting Dr. Culbertson of the Linguistics Program at Mason. I was fortunate to be able to work with Dr. Culbertson this past spring as an assistant in the linguistics lab. After helping her with the second language acquisition experiment, we found interesting results. This became the branching point for our next experiment. We wanted to know why students here at Mason could not learn the artificial language task. From there, we narrowed our question down to motivation, anxiety, and training time factors as possible contributors.
            For my project, I run participants on the computer task on a weekly basis. Most of the work involves organization with participants and recording data properly. I hope learning about factors in second language acquisition can further my connections with teaching and examining learning styles of children. My long term goal is to continue working in the field of linguistics and create connections that benefit education in the classroom.
            A recent discovery with the project has been through the participants. I have noticed that participants are eager to learn the language task and want to know what the language program involved. I am happy to explain the project and here the thoughts of the participants. Knowing that these findings about language acquisition can benefit them and other students allows me to pursue my interest with language research.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

URSP Student Chris Ummen Conducts PEBL Cognative Flexablity Testing Across Mediums

I’ve been interested in Psychology since high school, and I became interested in this project thanks to Dr. Youmans. In order to gain more research experience, I became one of Dr. Youman’s research assistants. In one of his weekly lab meetings, he suggested that it would be a good idea for the undergraduates in the group to begin their own research. I took his suggestion, and was explored current research in his lab until I found a topic that interested me.
My study uses data, from a larger in lab study, in an attempt to validate and examine differences between a computerized and paper-based assessment of cognitive flexibility. On a weekly basis, I improve my open source R-Studio statistical software skills, think of ways of improving my experiment, and read papers relating to cognitive flexibility. This week I discovered a better way of analyzing my data to produce results that are more meaningful than my original correlation, and data collection for the second part of my study will begin within the next two weeks.
This project has helped me synthesize massive amounts of information, and in doing so has helped me crystallize my assertions. My long term goals include getting a job involving heuristic evaluations of products, and being able to compile research will make my future job much easier.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

URSP Student Hyun Sung Deepens HIV Cell Biology Understanding through Interactive Games

I got interested in the HIV game development project as I met my mentor Dr. Schwebach in my cell biology class. I have always been interested in the human immunodeficiency virus since I have worked as a technician in a virology lab and as a member of the LGBT community and know the devastating damages of this virus. My mentor expressed his interest in STEM education and we thought it would be a great idea to develop a video game that teaches the cell biology of HIV, which is only a little covered in the cell biology curriculum. We found a team of computer scientists who were willing to take on this task with us!

            My long term career goal is to become a scientific researcher or educator. I probably will not work directly with infectious diseases but the lessons and skills I picked up as a laboratory technician will tremendously help me in graduate school. My field is neuroscience and it is a very interdisciplinary field where philosophy, psychology, biology, chemistry, computer science, and many other areas merge. Collaborating with a team of computer scientist will teach me how to communicate with other experts who are not in my field. In the process, I am also learning about game design and programming languages, which will be a great asset to my future career as a scientist. 

            My weeks contain many meetings with different people involved in the project and reading primary articles. Besides meeting with my mentor weekly, we also have frequent meetings with the computer science team to discuss what’s possible and feasible in terms of the game. In order to produce an accurate game, we also plan on meeting with HIV experts and educators from GMU. I also meet with my computer science partner Ed to exchange ideas and work on the project together. I also spend some time searching for open sources videos and images we can use to incorporate into the game, while reviewing primary research articles to provide the most up-to-date, accurate scientific information available on HIV.

            The past couple weeks were a little hard because we realized setbacks and hurdles in the development of the project. What we want in our heads versus what is really feasible for us to create within the given time seemed a little discouraging to me and Ed but thankfully with the encouragements from our mentors, the project is going strong!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

URSP Student Alex Sessums Researches Plant Functional Diversity and Wetland Ecosystem Health

My introduction to this project was in a course at GMU a year ago, Ecological Sustainability taught by my current mentor Dr. Changwoo Ahn in the EVPP department.  I learned many of the concepts underlying wetland ecology studies.  I helped establish a 40-mesocosm plant diversity experiment, which has grown into what I am looking at in my project, the resulting plant biomass after two seasons of growth of four different plant species.
What drives me towards this project is my interest in natural environment conservation and sustainability.  Taking an ecosystem approach considers interactions and balances between living and nonliving things. The goal of wetland sustainability is solving the problem of how best to sustain ecosystem functioning in the long term.  Numerous are the services provided by wetland ecosystems, clean watersheds, storm buffering, reducing soil erosion, and providing vegetation and animal habitat to name a few.  These areas are threatened by development.  Fortunately, policy decrees wetland creation to make up for wetland losses to development.  But are created wetlands as functional as those lost?
This is where I come in, researching wetland functioning in newly created wetlands, building data through research, informing policy decisions, and promoting sustainability.  Those are what I see as, my long term career goals in ecology.  The things I learn now will provide an enriched back ground for graduate education in this field.
Research has shown carbon deposits develop in created wetlands in deep open water areas and in perimeter areas of vegetation.  Does a diverse planting of species store more carbon than a less diverse planting of species?  I participate in the laboratory procedures used to measure the carbon accumulated in the soil, in the roots of the plants, and in the above ground biomass of the plants.  It has involved many hours of work done cooperatively with the students in the Wetland Ecosystem Laboratory team, “wetlanders”, directed by Dr. Ahn.  In the field in September I’ve been harvesting plants, taking root cores, transporting samples; processing soils for analysis in the lab; reviewing primary literature and laboratory procedures; recording data and doing statistical tests.
During October I have been directing a team of wetlanders in the preparation of aboveground plant tissue for carbon analysis.  I have discovered how to manage this process.  The next step is packaging the ground plant matter for elemental analysis and finally running the tests to be completed early November.   Saturday the 25th October, we go to a local wetland, currently in restoration, and take soil samples.  I would like to compare these samples to those of the mesocosm experiment.  The work is ongoing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

URSP Student Sofia Roth Investigates Family and Cultural Influences on the Retention of Diverse Employees

I have always been interested in individuals at work and organizational behavior. Through my major in Psychology (with a concentration in Work and Organizational Psychology) and minor in Business, I have been able to learn about different challenges faced by organizations. One topic that attracted my attention was employee turnover and I wondered if cultural heritage would have any influence on an employee’s decision to stay in or leave an organization. As I read what the management and organizational psychology literature had to say about the topic, I decided I wanted to pursue my own research project. My research consists of investigating diversity-related differences in employee turnover in the United States. By having the support of the Psychology Honors Program and my mentor, I applied and received URSP funding for my research project.
                  Having the opportunity to conduct my own research project at the undergraduate level has been very rewarding. The knowledge I have obtained through working on my research, collaborating with my mentor, and interacting with my fellow URSP funded fellows has been very beneficial to my professional growth. This research project directly relates to my long-term goals of pursuing graduate education and becoming a management consultant. The analytical thinking skills I have developed will help me in the future when examining complex organizational issues for businesses.
                  On a weekly basis I try to complete as many tasks as possible related to my research project. I always break down the workload into small tasks and prioritize my time accordingly. My time is split among reading journal articles, writing my manuscript, overseeing the progress of data collection, and meeting with my mentor.
                  One thing I learned from conducting my research is the challenges associated with obtaining participants. In particular I wanted to have an adult working sample and had to contact over 20 professional associations inviting them to participate in my research. Thankfully one of them agreed and their employee members completed my online survey. I have some data collected and hope to analyze it by the end of the fall 2013 semester.

Monday, November 18, 2013

URSP Student Susheela Meyyappan Researches the Muscarinic Receptor Modulation in Neuronal Networks

Muscarinic Receptor Modulation in Neuronal Networks
During one of my earlier semesters in school, I attended a seminar where I learned about prosthetics or virtual fingers being controlled by a human’s brain. The fact that we have the technology to perform this just astounded me. When I started my Bioengineering degree, I realized that I like to deal with things on a cellular level and that I am very intrigued by the complexity of the brain. The biology aspect is probably what intrigued me the most and drew me to Bioengineering. In my project, I record the electrical activity of neurons (brain cells). Once I started learning about the project, my interest grew and I started asking questions about how everything worked and started digging deeper. The brain is such an interesting and crucial part of the body. We need it to perform the simplest tasks, and when something small goes wrong it can affect us in a much more substantial way.  In the future, I hope to continue research related to the research I am involved in currently. Long-term, I hope to be helping develop or improve brain-powered prosthetics or be involved in a project concerning brain activity and behavior.
In a typical week, I will conduct extracellular recordings of neuronal networks for the first half of the week and analyze the data either later in the week or the following week. For each network, I first take a baseline recording of the cells for 30 minutes. Then I add the desired concentration of Amyloid Beta to the network and record for another 30 minutes. Amyloid Beta is the focus of my project because it is known to be causal to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). I am attempting to appropriately simulate AD and create a testing platform for AD targeting drugs. After the first Amyloid Beta recording, I will then take recordings 4, 8, and 24 hours after this initial recording. To process the data, I use certain software which allows me to group similar waveforms together to indicate the activity of separate neurons. After all the processing, I used MATLAB to generate plots of the activity and Microsoft Excel to generate bar graphs of average activity for each type of recording. This week I created bar graphs for the first time and I discovered that a small dose of Amyloid Beta doesn’t seem to affect the neurons significantly.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

URSP Student Melissa Kosciow Conducts an Exploratory Study of the Process of Becoming a Highly Identified Sports Fan

I was raised by a mother and father from central New Jersey, and they are both big sports fans. My mom loves the New York Giants and my dad roots for all New York sports teams. Sports have always been a big part of our household. After watching the underdog Giants win the Super Bowl in 2007, I became obsessed with football, and my enthusiasm only continues to grow. I own a lot of Giants merchandise and I never miss a game. One of my sociology professors noticed how much I loved the Giants and suggested that I study sports fans, which is how I got started in this research.  I found that sports fandom is a phenomenon that has been studied for years, and researchers have used a variety of methods to learn more about it. I wanted to bring something new to the table and provide new discoveries on the behavior of sports fans.
            One of my long term goals is to become more involved in scholarly research. This is my first independent research project so I am very excited to be getting hands-on experience. I also have interest in market research, and my research on sports fans is very relevant to companies who market to athletes or sports fans.  If I decide to have a career in this field, I will already have had experience and knowledge on sports fandom.
            My plan for my project is to first sample and recruit participants, conduct the interviews, transcribe, code, and analyze the data, and then develop conclusions. Every week will be different in the process of this project. On a weekly basis, I make sure I am where I want to be in my research. I need to stay on track of the work that needs to be done while making sure I am heading in the right direction. I spent this week sampling and preparing to recruit while brushing up on the literature. One new thing I learned this week was that geographical location does not have as much of an effect on sports fans choosing their preferred team as I had previously thought. I look forward to see what else I will discover!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

URSP Student Anisha Kolla Researches the Computational Framework for Analysis of Fungal Communities

I became interested in my project mainly because of its multidisciplinary nature. By involving Biology and Computer Science, I noticed that computer science is a very broad field and I came to love Computer Science much more. Also I get to use the skills I learned in class (Java) to complete a project that hopefully will be useful for biologists who collect fungal DNA samples. Lastly, the interest my professor shows for his area of study is contagious and makes me feel that my work would make an impact in the computer science field.
My long-term goal is to gain more practical experience in computer science that I can bring to the workplace when I graduate. This project relates to my goal because I now gear my finished product towards a larger consumer base versus for a professor or TA. There is a clear larger impact of my work in this project versus a project in a class. My programming work in this project also caters my skills in a disciplined way to be appealing to future employers.
On a weekly basis, I make incremental progress on my project. I update my professor every week on my progress, however small it may be sometimes, so I get immediate feedback especially if I need to change the direction of my project because I am trying to create an algorithm to accurately cluster DNA sequences based on similarity. An algorithm could change at any point if efficiency becomes a problem because the purpose of my project is to give a quick, easy solution to biologists who want to indentify the composition of fungal metagenomic data. I try to make progress in the right direction every week and with guidance from my mentor, I get a step closer to my final product.
This week I made progress trying to analyze how efficient my algorithm is. I discovered that as I increase the threshold (percent similarity between sequences), I get fewer clusters and vice versa is also true. In this project not only do I program but also I get to utilize my analytical skills to make decisions on how efficient my project is. I think having authority over the results of my project is also satisfying because my interpretation of similarity is different from others. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

URSP Student Hannah King Conducts a Choreographic Study of Dependency, Isolation and Perpetual Motion

                  Recently, I have become aware of dependency within my peers and myself, be it to a substance, a lifestyle, another person or a belief. I have realized that everyone experiences dependency and to a certain extent it is what holds society together. With that in consideration, it is also true that dependency can completely devour an individual's sense of self and can lead one to self-inflicted isolation. Playing with these concepts I am in the process of choreographing a dance exploring the emotions involved with dependency.
            The rehearsal process for this piece is a combination of leading group rehearsals and spending time in the studio by myself generating new material. My cast meets twice a week and we usually start by reviewing the choreography that has already been set. After we are all caught up, I will add on more material. I like to teach a phrase to the entire cast and then experiment with different formations, groupings, and pathways before I decide on how it will ultimately be performed in the piece.
            This week in my personal rehearsal time I completed choreographing the piece. Now I just need to teach the movement to my cast. Choreographing is inspiring and enjoyable for me and I am lucky that it is a key component in my major. I am currently in my junior year perusing a BFA in Dance with hopes to perform and choreograph professionally in the future.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

URSP Student Caroline Kim Writes the Sreenplay Trans: A Short Film

            This project originated from the Sandy Hook shooting and the invasive quality of media during and after the event. After I saw photos of distressed parents, I had to wonder: why do we do this to people, and are we hurting them? From there, I wrote the screenplay for Trans, and I wrote different answers to those questions I posed. The different ways that people grieve really depicts that there is no one correct answer to those questions.
            Film is a medium with which I'm not familiar, but the writing and filming definitely challenged me to create something for a different audience. This process has allowed me to become comfortable writing differently and to discuss a problem arising in America in a creative way. As I continue to write both creatively and technically, writing for different audiences will be critical.
            On a weekly basis for the past month, my mentor George Yanez and I have been scheduling times to film throughout the week. We set up two cameras—one interview camera and one “omniscient” camera—and from there, we film the fictional interviews with no interruptions. On Monday, George and I review what we've filmed, to make sure that everything we've filmed is the way we want it.
            One thing I've discovered this week is that midterms is a terrible time for student actors to help another student with a project. But no matter how difficult the scheduling may be, everyone is always willing to be as flexible as they can.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

URSP Student Daniel Jacobson Conducts Real-Time Analysis of Unexplained Network Behavior

            Over the summer, I worked with Professor Albanese at the Center for Secure Information Systems to refine an algorithm designed to take a set of observed events, put them through various models to detect complex behaviors, and then probabilistically identify sequences of events that aren't sufficiently explained by any of those behaviors. This approach is intended for use in network security, drawing attention to unexplained network activity simply by process of elimination. My research this fall has been to find a way to convert this "offline" algorithm, which requires all input data at the very start, to an "online" algorithm, which can be fed data piece-by-piece as it is recorded, which is far more useful in a network security environment.
            My interest in this was twofold. First, the relatively simple (and, dare I say, elegant) math underlying the algorithm means I don't need to be an expert in network security to make any progress; my job is simply to create a framework to be expanded upon by others. Second, the level of planning, trial, and error inherent to a project this size has necessarily made me a better programmer (a useful skill in this field). It's nothing exciting to look at—the hardest part is simply finding the time between studying and sleeping to sit down with my laptop and program for an hour or two.
            This week, I've been trying to figure out which parts of the program should store data, and when to add newly-captured data, which is harder than it seems because different parts of the program require the data to be in different states (old, new, combined). The solution? Have each function generate a list of changes and only apply them once the program no longer needs the unchanged data. Easier said than done, of course, but it's rewarding little victories like this that remind me why I enjoy programming. Who knows, with enough little victories I may even be able to accomplish a few big ones.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

URSP Student Nicolle Graham Researches if Cultural Differences between Intercultural Couples Effect Satisfaction and Commitment in the Relationship

        Race, religion and ethnicity are three aspects of a human being that have lead to persecution, misunderstanding, and debate ever since mankind could reason and analyze. A misunderstanding, or fear, of someone who looks or behaves differently is one of the main causes of events such as the Holocaust, Apartheid, and even Terrorism. Yet amazingly, despite these “differences,” some people choose to look past them, embrace them, and love them, especially in a romantic relationship.

In my honors thesis, I am attempting to answer why these individuals choose to interculturally date. Do those who date outside of their culture, have a more satisfied and committed relationship in which they are attracted to their partner and content in that relationship, or do opposites attract?

 Being in an intercultural relationship myself caused me to question the very foundation of our love. My boyfriend, a Hispanic, was born in the United States, but both of his parents were not. I, myself, have grown up with few cultural customs other then that of a typical American, and yet despite the huge differences in ethnic beliefs, we are able to mold our two cultures and belief systems together to make our relationship work. In my opinion, the strong differences between us are what fascinate and draw me to him the most. This is the reason for my research on the topic; I seek to discover whether a couple’s differences in culture draw them together or apart, in other words, are we the rule or the exception.

In the future I would love get a PhD in Psychology, specifically human development and see how culture effects the learning process, the ability to form close interpersonal relationships, and its effect on romantic involvement. This honors thesis has helped me learn the research process in a way that not many undergraduate students get the pleasure of experiencing. Nothing has been more exciting than collecting and analyzing my data to see what exactly my results are and how they compare to my hypotheses. The results, whether significant or not, make the whole process worth it in the end.

Monday, November 11, 2013

URSP Student Marcus Daum Researches Power Fluctuation in Liquid Crystals

            I was first got into this project over this past summer. I was part of another Mason internship program called ASSIP which set me up with my current mentor, Rob Cressman and his PhD student Zrinka. When I read the description about the project I would be a part of, I was ecstatic. I would be working in a physics lab to study, create circuits, and learn about this very expensive amplifier to filter out unwanted noise. I don’t think there could have been a better ft.
            This project is just my first research experience, but one that I wish to continue for a while yet. I plan on going to graduate school for physics to get my PhD, so this is my first step at résumé building to prove research experience to have me stand out amongst other students applying to the same graduate schools as I will be.
            This week, like the past six weeks or so, has been a lot of data analysis in Matlab. After taking a 2-D FFT of a subset of the liquid crystal sample, I created a mean optical value of the subset of the crystal sample during one of the runs of the latest experiment, which was run in mid-September. We have been trying to correlate the electrical measurements that we have taken with the optical FFT’s and mean values, but without major success. This past week we started comparing the mean values of the optical data with the FFT’s of the optical data, which we thought might have been redundant, but turned out to be very helpful. This comparison has lead us to some interesting finds and some interesting physical phenomenon which I will document and prepare for my talk in Pittsburgh in late November. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

URSP Student Colin Cattanach Detects Gravitational Waves with Entangled Photons

I was watching a TedxWaterloo Talk on Quantum Computing by Ray Laflamme when I first became fascinated with applications of quantum computing. The concepts were unlike anything I was familiar with and I soon found myself searching for more talks and literature on the subject to better my understanding. After taking a course on optics last semester, I became aware that my professor was very experienced in the field of quantum science and quantum information. After expressing my interests, Dr. Tian agreed to mentor my research project for the fall semester.

My research project has given me the opportunity to explore and expand my knowledge in modern optics, as well as, allowed me to explore the fundamentals of quantum optics. This project has also given me a firsthand glimpse at the real aspects of research, such as the application process for funding and the level of dedication to thought and computation. I intend on pursuing a doctorate degree in physics and I believe the experience I am gaining as a result of this opportunity, will prepare me for a research intensive graduate program.

                  This project involves building and running many simulations. Several hours a week are spent either working out the calculations by hand to verify their accuracy, or running simulations and adjusting parameters to see how the system behaves. If I cannot figure out how I should approach a calculation, I head to the library to find a reference that will give me a starting point. When I have made some progress on a task, I plan to meet with my mentor to discuss the next step or review my methods to make sure they are correct.  I also run tests on the lab’s Cryostation while working on the simulations, since a single cool down can take several hours.

                  One thing I learned this week, and will never take for granted again, is that nothing is as simple as it appears in textbooks. I have been warned of this before, but you do not thoroughly understand the concept until you actually apply the knowledge you have learned to a realistic scenario. Textbooks are a great starting point; however the concepts must be tailored appropriately to fit realistic parameters.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

URSP Student Jane Osborne Researches the Economics of Jurisdictional Exceptions to International Financial Reporting Standards and the Effects on Comparability of Financial Information

The economics of jurisdictional exceptions to International Financial Reporting Standards and the effects on comparability of financial information
I remember in Introduction to Microeconomics when Dr. Boudreaux joked that if you were having trouble falling asleep, you should pick up and read an economics textbook and that would take care of the problem…I laughed then, but ultimately, I found that the relationship of economics to daily life was pretty interesting! My research topic is interdisciplinary in nature, and I am using the lense of economics to scrutinize and evaluate an accounting topic, which is how the information in financial statements is affected by economic factors. The goal of my research is to assess if there is relationship between a country’s main industries and any changes that they made to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) when the country adopted the standards. Due to the nature of our global economy, adoption of IFRS is expected to make comparisons easier between companies from different countries since the financial reporting rules would be the same; however, the question is whether inconsistently applied rules affects comparability. In the US, this topic is relevant since the Securities and Exchange Commission is evaluating whether or not to adopt IFRS.

The research process has been exciting and challenging. Early in the semester I met with my academic mentor, Dr. J. K. Aier, to establish a plan to accomplish the background research, data collection and analysis, and presentation preparation. At this point, the background research is substantially finished. This week, I have continued working to find specific data relating to the processes used by countries to adopt IFRS, and also, whether they fully adopted all of the standards. At times, I have felt like a super-sleuth when my search queries have yielded exactly what I wanted to find – and then, there have been other times when I can’t seem to phrase the search terms in that magical way that returns anything worth using. This project has taught me the importance of documenting searches that are productive so that I can try variations of them, and, also which databases are especially relevant in my disciplines. Another particularly helpful resource is Jo Ann Henson, who is the GMU library liaison for the business disciplines; her suggestions and assistance have enhanced my productivity. With data collection winding down, I am looking forward to focusing on analysis in the next project phase.

Friday, November 8, 2013

URSP Student Alexandra Casillas Measures Iron Accumulation and Brain Atrophy in Multiple Sclerosis Patients using MRI Images

The project that I am currently working on involves measuring iron accumulation and brain atrophy in patients with multiple sclerosis with the use of MRI technology. I am an aspiring radiologist, so the first thing that really peaked my interest was the idea of being able to work with MRI images and medical imaging tools. After further reading about the project and meeting my mentor, I was able to understand how important this project was going to be in the multiple sclerosis (MS) field. There is currently no cure for MS, so any information regarding different aspects of the disease is essential. Not only was this going to be an amazing opportunity to be able to work on, but I also knew that I was going to learn a lot considering I only possessed basic knowledge of MS and MRI technology at the time.

This project is very much related to my long-term goal because I want to become a radiologist and ultimately analyze medical images for a living. There are a variety of different areas to specialize in within the field of radiology, so being able to work with neurology now (and hopefully other areas later on) will help me narrow down what parts of the body I am most passionate about.

I do a lot of similar work from week to week. My mentor and I try to meet once a week and in these meetings we will discuss what is going on with the project right now and then we will analyze an article together and see what type of research others are doing with MS and whether there is other evidence out there to prove what we are doing is headed in the right direction. What I do on a weekly basis has changed since I started this project, but right now I mainly have been working with the data and am trying to find some statistical significances between different variables. We are trying to find correlations between a few of the key aspects involved in MS. This involves trying to figure out which set of data will be the best to use and then running various statistical tests, like one and two sample t-tests, spearman correlations, pearson correlations, etc. Once the tests are run, I analyze the numbers, see if there is any significance, and whether there is significance or not, I have to ask myself what exactly does this mean for the data?

One thing that I have learned this week is the correct way to run spearman correlations in R Studio! (Statistical software.)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

URSP Highlights: Kevone Bennett

The relationship between bilingualism and cognitive flexibility 
While attending a psychology careers presentation, I learned about the Human Factors and Applied Cognition program offered at George Mason. I researched the program and its corresponding undergraduate courses. I also began exploring ways to become involved in research, and I soon became a research assistant in Dr. Robert Youmans’ creativity research laboratory.  I have already obtained firsthand research experience on creativity and design fixation. Ultimately, I would like to pursue a career in the field of Human Factors upon receiving a Masters of Arts degree. Becoming an OSCAR scholarship recipient will provide me with further research experience that will lead me to improve my written communication skills, and strengthen my knowledge of research.

The origin of my project stems from my interest in researching the advantages of bilingualism. I am Jamaican and I have a strong connection to my cultural background. As part of my education in Jamaica, I had to learn about different cultures particularly because Jamaican Creole is made up of several languages (i.e., English, Dutch, Spanish and French). This semester, I have been helping conduct research on Human Factors-related topics, such as individual differences in working memory capacity and cognitive flexibility. This research has leaded me to develop my own research project, which explores what mental advantages a bilingual person may possess. My project objective is to explore the relationship between bilingualism and cognitive flexibility. The purpose of the study is to find out if bilinguals outperform monolinguals on a behavioral assessment task.

At the start of every week, I write down the objective for each day. If they are not met, I complete it in another day. My week is usually composed of data collection, talking to international clubs and speaking with my mentor. This week I discovered that the Institutional Review Board is more concerned with the safety of the participants rather than the science of project. The IRB is interested in the purpose and the instrumentation of the research, but they want to make participants will be safe and the project is without risk.