Friday, October 31, 2014

URSP Student Angeline Palmer Works in the ALT Room and Assesses Student Involvement

My fall 2014 URSP project consists of assisting the professor in the ALT room and assessing student involvement. In the classroom, I am monitoring student engagement, course time management, and assisting the learning assistants in who in tern answer student questions. My main focus is assessing student analysis of their learning goals through surveys given out online before and after each exam. This allows for real time feedback on student reflections of their learning process with regards to the course and allows the professor to address frustrations associated with the course as a whole.

I became interested in my project in 2012 when one of my lecture professors was complicating flipping their course. The idea of active learning appealed to me as a student who excels in a hands-on environment and because I am easily distracted in typical lectures. After looking at current research in chemical education involving active learning and hearing that the STEM Accelerator’s LA program was looking for general chemistry learning assistants (LA) I approached my professor about a possible position for her course. I applied to the STEM Accelerators LA program, was accepted, and the following spring we proceeded with the course half flipped. We then continued reformatting and researching active learning and this is are second semester running the class fully flipped.

Chemical education research on active learning is part of my future goals as I finish out my education concentration and teachers licensure in the state of Virginia. I hope to teach high school chemistry as I peruse master’s degree in chemical education. Partaking in undergraduate research in the field I wish to peruse has helped me identity exactly what I like and dislike about the field and what aspects of chemical education I want to focus on in the future.

A week in the life of my project includes attending the course lecture and meeting with each of my mentors separately during the week. I make sure that all of the materials that were created over the summer are finalized, ready to presenting in class, and are organized correctly in blackboard. I also make sure that the online homework system is functioning and field student questions regarding the assignments. My main task during the week is to observe the students during class and create the questionnaires. I look at the findings from the questionnaires and compare them with course assessments and participation. I monitor student misconceptions and work with the professor to address these issues so students continue to build on their learning. This week I learned that repeating the key concepts, helping students identify them in different problems, and providing ways for students to interpret the concepts through various definitions is a skill that greatly assists in the learning process.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

URSP Student Beverly Auman Researches Parent Affiliation And Involvement With D.C. Public Charter Schools

I am working on a case study with my research partner Miranda Carver on what effects parent involvement and affiliation in a DC public charter school. The goal of our research is to study the different aspects that help and hinder DC parents from becoming involved in charter schools. I became interested in this project because I am very passionate about education and am fascinated by how it can interact with the community and culture of the students’ families. I believe that anthropology has a lot to offer education research, such as its holistic and ethnographic approaches. I have a passion for education and hope that our project can help schools facilitate and maintain parent engagement.

Our research methods include surveys, interviews, site visits and observations of school events. We have been using anthropological methods to try to discover how and which parents become involved and if they are able to have input in their child’s education. On a weekly basis we attend school sponsored events, schedule or transcribe parent or teacher interviews, code qualitative data, and encourage more survey responses. This past week I have been learning how to code interviews to organize and categorize our qualitative data. It is a long but rewarding process that really helps you frame and analyze your data.

This project relates to my long term goals because after I finish my undergraduate degree I am planning to go to graduate school to study Educational Anthropology. I hope to use anthropology one day to study our education system and research what we can do to reform it and reach more students. I would like to work as a university professor conducting research on the anthropology of education, while also teaching students.  I specifically want to work to improve education for low income urban areas and minority students.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

URSP Student Richard Peyton Researches Injuries among early adolescents in Oman

The world’s population is living longer than ever before. Because of that, ensuring the health of our youngest populations is vital. If we can guarantee that a country’s population is healthy while young, they will be able to enjoy a more fulfilling life as they age. The Middle East is rife with conflict, and as such ensuring the health of their young is imperative to building a safer Middle East for tomorrow. Studying injuries in Oman will allow me to correlate data from a high income country, and through future research, investigate whether interventions used can be applied to low- and middle- income countries in the Middle East. This area shares a rich and storied past. Most of the countries in this area share very similar social and spiritual backgrounds, which could allow for easy policy application across the region.

Working on health issues in the Middle East presents particular challenges because of access. Without the ability to reach certain populations, it is necessary to sample similar populations and use the data for research. My long-term goal is to work in maternal and child health, concentrating on issues in the Middle East. Because of the lack of information available, I will need to correlate information for related communities to supplement my research. Having the opportunity from George Mason to do intensive research has helped me understand the intricacies of data analysis.

My research entails poring over data collected through the Global School-based student health survey (GSHS). Using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), I re-coded the collected data and ran statistical models in an effort to analyze and discover trends. Through this research, I have been able to carefully represent how the youth of Oman understand and discuss injures. Over the past week, I was able to finish coding all of my data and began creating tables that represent a story of how, why, and when young people in Oman are injured. Initially, my plan was to solely investigate whether students were injured and whether those injuries were caused by certain at-risk behaviors. However, after further analysis, I realized that there was a better story to tell. Through looking at the student’s exposure to certain behaviors, I found a way to figure out the likelihood of a student’s chance of being injured, if other behaviors presented.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

URSP Student Justin Kurz Uses Graphite Nanomaterials as Concrete Reinforcing

My OSCAR research is the result of my continued involvement with Concrete Canoe at GMU. Concrete Canoe is a design, build, and race competition hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers in which groups of students have to design, engineer, build, and race a canoe made out of concrete that can hold up to 4 people at a time. While researching possible additives to make our canoe lighter and stronger I came across some research suggesting that the addition of carbon nanomaterials would be an effective way to reduce weight while increasing the tensile strength of the concrete. My goal is to find a way to reap the potential benefits of these high tech materials in a concrete mix that doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment.

I have worked around concrete for the better part of the last 7 years, working for a contractor in DC helping to build a tunnel at Dulles Airport, offices, apartments, and most recently the newest Smithsonian Museum. Since becoming involved in the industry I have always been amazed at the versatility concrete has despite being one of the oldest known building materials. Through doing research with OSCAR I have gained a lot of insight into the relationships between the constituent elements of concrete which has made me a much better informed engineer. My research will not only benefit me but the data I am gathering now in the lab on concrete mix design will also benefit George Mason’s Concrete Canoe Team for years to come.

Because there is no materials science lab for concrete at GMU I conduct my research at the ABET certified lab of Vulcan Ready Mix Materials in Springfield, VA. I visit there once a week and bring a small group of civil engineering students with me to learn about mix design. We develop small batches of concrete to be cured and tested. Having the opportunity to work in Vulcan’s lab has also benefited me professionally by seeing what goes on behind the scenes when a commercial concrete mix is being developed. Currently, my mentors at Vulcan, Teck Chua and Sean Murnane, are working on designing all of the concrete which is being poured on the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line extension.

Monday, October 27, 2014

URSP Student Lindsey Cundra Researches Summer Residential Governor’s School Curriculum Development

My current project encompasses the design, curriculum and syllabus of a summer research experience for high school juniors and seniors at George Mason University. The summer program focuses on bacteriophage evolution in soil environments in response to climate change. The project is part of a large collaboration with my undergraduate colleague Caroline Benzel and mentor Dr. James Schwebach. Dr. Schwebach taught a similar curriculum, called the Phagefinders program, at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECOM). Caroline Benzel is focusing on designing a George Mason course to be integrated with the high school experience I am outlining.

Although I am currently seeking a concentration in microbiology, I did not take the course until the spring of my senior year. I quickly discovered my powerful fascination of the subject– everything from epidemiology to virology to immunology was enthralling to me.  Luckily, my undergraduate collaborator Caroline introduced me to Dr. Schwebach, who received his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology. Once I understood his ideas to continue the Phagefinders program at George Mason University, I knew I had to be a part of it. As an aspiring physician, this project is not only important to me because it provides invaluable mentorship and research opportunities to high school and college students, but it also expands our knowledge of phage evolution, which can be applied to countless trajectories in medicine (phage therapy, biotechnology and microbiome research to name a few).

On a weekly basis, I spend the majority of my time reading and reviewing countless journal articles related to phage ecology, phage evolution, evolutionary biology and phagefinder program conclusions. I prioritize the rest of my time to writing summary reviews, outlining my curriculum, brainstorming with my mentor and emailing my collaborators. Although I spend most of my time keeping up to date on the latest research, it always amazes me that I run across something new every day. Just this week, I discovered how viral metagenomics was used to identify phage in our gut microbiome, a new frontier in personalized medicine.