Thursday, January 22, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Roohussaba Khairullah

My name is
Roohussaba Khairullah and I am a research assistant in The TRUstworthy and Mindful AutomatioN (TRUMAN) Lab. The primary goals of this lab is to understand how different automated agents interact with humans and the ways in which these agents may affect performance, trust, reliance, and compliance during a task. This lab is led by Dr. Ewart De Visser who has a Ph.D. in Human Factors and Applied Cognition.

I am currently working under Kaitlyn Marinaccio, the lead researcher, on the DICON experiment in which we are assessing the performance and trust levels of operators interacting with automated systems and while using adaptive trust cues to calibrate trust, enhance the operator’s decision making. As part of the OSCAR work study program, I am involved in research on human trust in varying levels of automation. I have always been interested in learning more about Psychology and I enjoy studying topics such as trust and perception. As a research assistant, I have many responsibilities such as collecting and analyzing data, searching for articles to summarize and present to the lab, and assisting in running experiments. Basically, I help the researchers in any way I can and follow the directions provided by them. Recently, I have learned how to run experiments in real life. Although as a Biology major, I have run multiple experiments on flies, arthropods and other animals, this was the first time when I was dealing with human beings and it was quite fun. In a long-term, this experiment is providing me with the experience of dealing with actual human being. Since as a pre-medical student, I have read about the systems of human beings at a cellular and organ level in books, but this experiment allows me to see them as a whole and allow me to see that human beings have feelings, emotions and their own thinking and also how their performance, trust, reliance, and compliance are affected during a task in real life.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Namhee Kim

This semester, I have the honor of working with Dr. Daniel Lofaro, the founder of Lofaro Labs at George Mason University. I came into this research position not knowing much about Robots, except what I had seen from the movie Transformers. I learned to install/use Robot Operating System (ROS) & Gazebo (3D simulator). I have been self-teaching myself C++ programming, to write a controller for the robot, Pioneer 3DX which I like to call Mickey Mouse because of its red and yellow design. My project is to program Mickey Mouse for Dr. Lofaro to be able to use Mickey Mouse to deliver candy to the other ECE professors down the hall.
On a weekly basis, I write tutorials for Lofaro Labs Wiki on ROS and Gazebo for others to easily understand, and write/edit the controller for the robot. The controller is a working progress; getting the robot to move smoothly and how/where I want it to move. One thing I discovered recently, was that a robot has to be told specifically in detail in what direction to move, how fast and when to stop because it does not have human instincts to think, ‘I should probably slow down or stop’ or even ‘I shouldn’t be going around in circles unceasingly’. It will do what you tell it to do and nothing more, therefore in writing the controller, I have to be cautious of any logic or syntax errors.
I hope to design and program a personal robot to follow me around, take pictures and help carry my belongings. I also hope to align my research for travelers who love to take pictures of their surroundings, and baby strollers so that mothers could more easily go places, especially if they have more than one child. Some may think, ‘what if Robots take over the world?’ but I believe that as long as those doing research with Robots are motivated and have good intentions to help humans ease their lives and the stress of daily tasks, we will not have to worry. I am passionate about using the knowledge I have to help those around me and all around the world. I thank Dr. Lofaro for helping find my passion and motivation for more knowledge.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Meghana Varde

For my work-study position, I am working with Professor Marion Deshkmukh, who is hosting various events about the time period of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  There have been movies, lectures and guest speakers.  Topics range from the art and music to President Kennedy visiting Berlin.

On a weekly basis, I make copies of posters and flyers that are distributed to different departments on campus.  I have also made phone calls to make sure that orders/requests go through for the events.  I am able to attend various events and get an understanding of how the effect that the fall of the wall had on the people during this time period. 

One of the events that I attended was listening to guest speaker Andreas Daum, SUNY Buffalo, talk about President Kennedy’s visit to Berlin in the 1960’s.  It was interesting to learn about what goes on when a president visits another country.  President Kennedy spoke about what was happening at the time period. He took an entire tour around the city of Berlin in an open car, which most presidents did at the time.

This position has helped me learn how to manage my time and improve my organizational skills.  These are skills that I can practice now and continue to use them for the rest of my life.  As a Chemistry major, most of my classes are either science or math, so having this position has opened my eyes and mind to something outside of my comfort zone.  This was definitely a great experience and a great way to learn new things. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Dawite Ewentu

Hello, my name is Dawite Ewnetu and I am a junior pursuing a dual degree in computer science, and mathematics. I worked with Professor Daniel Lofaro during the Fall of 2014. I work in the Lofrao Labs which is located in the Engineering Building. I work on different assignments starting from designing a floor model to using a 3D printer to print the parts of a robot. On a daily bases, I meet with my mentor in order to discuss my current project, and to understand my new upcoming assignment. Then, I gain a deeper understanding through research, and then pursue the task at hand. Among many others things, I truly enjoyed working with talented students. I had a wonderful opportunity to gain knowledge from others which even included the senior design team members. This experience gave me a chance to understand how to work on research. I feel fortunate to work with Professor. Daniel. He helped me understand how robots work together, the software that is used to do robot simulations, and I learned about web-designed simulators. During a recent conversation with Professor. Daniel, I was told that I am going to start working on making a clone version of Minibot, which is the robot designed by the senior design team. This assignment is going to help me be innovative in my own research, which is something I am looking forward to. Initially, I started working with OSCAR to learn how to create a robot, and thus far, I learned a lot. Next semester, I am hoping to have my own mini robot that could be used for a maze game system. In order for this goal to be fulfilled, I need to learn different softwares, and robot simulation. The most important thing I learn from working with OSCAR is, not to depend on others to learn about new discoveries. I gain a deeper understanding from trying to solve and complete various assignments by myself. Overall, I became more open to new ideas and, also develop the strength to overcome obstacles that a startup researcher faces. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Rebecca Lee

This past semester, I had the privilege to work as a research assistant under Global Affairs Professor Singh. The project that I and two other students were assisting Professor Singh with dealt with determining the socioeconomic impact of information technology on developing countries. By utilizing quantitative and qualitative research methods, I will critically analyze closed projects from the World Bank from 1990 to 2010. By analyzing the closed World Bank projects, the two research assistants and I will assist Professor Singh in developing a coding scheme and publishing a book that will help gauge whether technology is playing a participatory role or not in developing countries. On a weekly basis, I and two other research assistants had about a week to analyze and code three World Bank projects that Professor Singh picked from the online project database on the World Bank website. After analyzing and coding each of the three projects, we would meet up in Professor Singh’s office to discuss each of the three projects and improve the coding scheme from the feedback that he received from each of us. As a research assistant, I discovered how the importance of my role as a research assistant who was assisting Professor Singh with developing his coding scheme even though I was only an undergraduate student. I see this opportunity being very relevant to my long-term goals. As a global affairs major and a student who has always been eager to learn the research process, this opportunity has helped me to see a scholar making an impact in the field of Global Affairs. I hope to go to graduate school for international affairs and work for the Department of State.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Kim Banks

My Name is Kim Banks and my intended major is Physics and an Astronomy minor. I am currently working for Jessica L. Rosenberg as a research assistant. I am a freshman and I am grateful to get such an assistantship so soon, especially in my preferred field of work. We are working on a proposal to use the Hubble Telescope in May of 2015 to look at spheroidal dwarf galaxies and use a quasar as a source of light to find out what these galaxies are made-up of.
Currently, I am gathering data together to look over and decide with is the best to use for the project. Then I am to submit a request to gather data from an online database called Mikulski Archive For Space Telescopes about objects- such as a quasar- that we want more information about. Before this, I collected information from the different galaxies and organized the information into Excel sheets for easier access. After I have gathered the requested data I am to access it through a program using Linux.

I have learned a lot since being this assistantship. I have learned a great deal about my intended career field and about the work I will be dedicating my life to. Along with learning about locating points in space- similar to longitudes and latitudes on Earth but in space- have also learned about measurements used to define how far away something and what these measurements are equivalent to. This week, I should be learning a bit about how to use Linux, which is preferred in most of this line of work. 

My long-term goal is to become an Astrophysicist and work under other scientist in this field while gaining experience then eventually researching independently. Having the opportunity to work in this kind of position so early on is a true dream, especially as my first job. This assistantship as done a great deal for me and helped me make another step closer to accomplishing my dream.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Zeba Ejaz

The project I am working on in the Psychology Oscar Department is based on linguistics. Linguistics is applied in the spontaneous English files, which is the name of my first project that I am working on. In the spontaneous English files, I had to mark a boundary on syllables that were in the words that were spoken and state when the person spoke and when they were silent. The point of this project was to see how people differ in speech based on their native languages. Everyone had said the same lines, which made it easier to mark the syllables that were spoken and compare the rates that people spoke. I had worked on this project under my supervisor, Professor Tuuli Morrill and two graduate students named Zhiyan Gao and SungShim Choi. There was also another undergraduate student that worked with me named, Astacia Pegram.

On a weekly basis, I went to the Speech Analysis Lab or worked on my computer at home to work on the spontaneous English files because the computers had to have Praat (a software) downloaded on them for the spontaneous English files. One thing I discovered this week with the spontaneous English files was that people have different rates of speaking. The English spontaneous files depicted how people vary in the way they say the same words and they also vary in the amount of time it takes them to say the same things. Some people say things slowly while others speak a bit faster.

My position in the Psychology Oscar Department relates to my long-term goals by allowing me to apply linguistics in the real world. I was always interested in Psychology and linguistics and I am glad I got a chance to do activities to apply them in projects. My major is Biology but I am always open to all the sciences because they seem interesting and I get to learn new things from them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: RaNeka Scott

As an OSCAR RA, I am currently working on a nutrition study with Dr. Cara Frankenfeld.  The study focuses on the relationship between where an individual lives and their eating habits. 
Each week, I collect data using a dietary assessment program, as well as a database module containing information on U.S. businesses.  With the addresses given by each subject participating in the study, using the database module, I download and collapse information about the locations of grocery stores, pharmacies, cafeterias, and bars within a certain mile radius.  Using the dietary assessment program, I enter in the dietary information given by each of the subjects, in order to further analyze the relationship.
One thing I learned this week was how simple it is to modify resources being used to collect data for research.  I have always been afraid of the research process, knowing that sometimes there are things you simply cannot get around when collecting data and making analyses. However, this week I was continuously reminded of how wonderful technology is when you need to enter and assess data very quickly. 
Becoming involved in the OSCAR RA program has been wonderful! I have learned so much, and have been granted opportunities to network with individuals who are passionate about public health and research just like I am.  As an undergraduate student, I have learned so much from those individuals, as they are now starting their own research studies. I would like to further my education and continue on to graduate school, and this opportunity has set me apart from other cohorts because I have gained research experience.  I hope to continue to learn, and as I advance I hope to use this information to help others, as well as make a difference in the world.

Monday, January 12, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Frah Ejaz

The project I am working on estimates obesity in young children later on in their life. How the data will be collected is by conducting focus groups around children aged two through five. The children’s waist size, weight and height are measured and parents are responsible for filling out four packets that contain small surveys and questions about them and their child. These are essential parts of the study that will shape the predictability of obesity. With all the data collected, analysis and recording results is as follows at the end where parents are eventually informed about their child’s results. Whom I work with on this project is the Supervisor of the Nutrition and Food Studies Department Dr. Sina Gallo and a graduate student named Ashley Shaw. I mainly spend most of my time with my co-worker Ashley because this project is for her thesis. What I have to do on a weekly basis depends Ashley because some days have more work than others. Sometimes I am assigned mini projects I have to complete in a certain amount of time while other days inputting paperwork to the computer is needed by using the program Microsoft Excel. One thing I discovered this week is how passionate I am not only about this job but also about this field of work. I am less confused about my major and what to expect for the path I am on. I feel certain that I want to be in medical sciences and will enjoy the process along the way. I see this as relating to my long-term goals in many different ways. First off, it is helpful in understanding and providing examples with details in the field of science because it is a hands-on experience. Also, I have developed useful skills I will need later on to advance in my career such as how to properly conduct research, communication skills and much more. I am still in the process of building and improving more skills as I go along but I feel confident and better prepared with the OSCAR research study experience I have become a part of.

Friday, January 9, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Randall Drury

After graduating from Germanna Community College in December 2013 with a two-year degree, I enrolled at GMU to continue my higher education. It was during my first semester at Mason (as a junior) when I began to consider which fields of psychology that my interests best fit. Initially, those interests were as broad as the Potomac is wide and this prompted me to seek out advising. Following a meeting one afternoon with Dr. Hurley, I took the suggestion to apply for undergraduate research experience. Soon after that, I began working with Dr. Carryl Baldwin in the Auditory Research Group (ARG) and the Mason Transportation Institute (MTI) and my interests began to narrow.

The more involved I became in research the more my working relationship with Carryl grew - she became my unofficial mentor. Prior to the summer term, we discussed the option of independent study. I signed up for this option as a summer semester elective (PSYC 460 - Introduction to Human Factors). Also, I learned about the OSCAR program through the Office of Student Scholarship and secured a federal work-study undergraduate research assistantship with Carryl for the 2014-15 school year. Since then, Carryl has become my official mentor and I have benefited much through my lab experience.

From week to week I collaborate with the other students (graduate and undergraduate) of the two labs. Along with the other RAs (research assistants) within the ARG, research is conducted on sustained attention to response task (SART). The SART investigates the influence of music on maintenance of focused attention. Within the MTI, I am learning programming of the motion-based driving simulator through JavaScript-based scenario scripting. My lab activities include: writing code, running participants, or reviewing journal articles. Thus far my experience in applied research has certainly been well-rounded; I have also consistently met with Carryl and others RAs to discuss past and up-coming Human Factors Applied Cognition (HFAC) general proceedings. I spend between 10 and 15 hours a week enjoying these opportunities. Today, my interests are in driver distraction, usability, perception and performance. As an ancillary benefit to my research experience, I enrolled in another round of independent study (PSYC 460 - Driver Behavior Assessment & Training) this past August with my mentor.

Over the past week, I learned how to edit an abstract for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. I engaged in this process with Carryl and other RAs, regarding the previously mentioned SART study. If it happens to be accepted for publication, my name will be attached. I discovered that being published (potentially) as an undergraduate is an advantage.

Throughout my college career travels, I could have taken a different direction at any number of intersections along the way. I got involved in research as an undergraduate however, and am now earnestly pursuing HFAC psychology. It is through the OSCAR program and federal work-study funding that I owe my gratitude. Being given the ability to earn while partaking in research allowed me to accomplish more in the same amount of time, and having time to get things done makes all the difference in what the future holds for me. Importantly enough, a graduate degree in HFAC makes a lot of sense for my future.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Naila Rafique

This semester I have the great pleasure to assist Dr. J.P. Singh with an on-going research project on international development that will result in a book publication. Through the help of two other research assistants, Corina Solorzano and Salimatou Ouedraogo, we are coding several World Bank projects, looking for deliberation and participation practices.

What I actually do on a weekly basis is quiet complex and very intriguing. I, along with the other two RAs, collect and summarize documents and material from World Bank projects and then use a sophisticated coding scheme that was also designed with our help to measure different factors about each project with a focus on information technologies and development. This process involves great detail and precise intercoder reliability, which is being effectively met with the importance on dialogue and calibration amongst each other. 

I discovered that measuring participation is more complex then it seems. It not only requires looking at many stages of a project and really analyzing the importance of each part of the process but also looking at the post operations and implications of it on a certain population.

This is related to my long-term goals in many ways. The first thing is that this opportunity has led my exposure to research in the field of international development. I have also through this experience been able to construct and use a coding scheme that really helps better analyze a document succinctly. These are all things that will be very useful when looking to do my own research for my masters and eventually doctorate, which will examine and probe literature and content of the same nature. I am very thankful to OSCAR for giving me this opportunity and exposure that will be extremely helpful in my future ventures.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Corina Solorzano

 I work with two other research assistants, Naila Rafique and Salimatou Cristal Ouedraogo, both Global Affairs majors in the Honors Program and both seniors filled with a lot of knowledge that help contribute to this project. The three of us are working as research assistants for Dr. Jatinder Singh, a professor here at George Mason University as well a knowledge scholar within this area. What we do is code projects from the World Bank database and look for participation within development projects in the sector of information technology and communication.

This semester was about getting all of us to the same level of coding and being able to look at one project and all of us coming up with the same results. I am happy to say this has been completed and now we go on to the next level. We are starting the main coding of all the World Bank Projects under our sector with certain conditions. We code on a weekly basis and then reconvene in order to discuss our findings. Our research doesn’t end this semester and is carrying on into the spring so we’ll have a lot more results then.

This week we discovered that some of our projects might have to be dismissed because they have missing documents or have been cancelled so we need to work with these bumps in the road. But I am glad to say that this week we have finished the “trial” session you can say and will begin to code our main projects. We are all at the same level and are ready to continue our projects.
I’m unsure of the specifics of what I want to do in the future. I know I want to stay within the Global Affairs sector, and my concentration, International Development interests me immensely. I want to continue to learn about different cultures and how they came to be about and continue to adapt and change. These projects allow me to see a different side of certain countries and regions that wouldn’t normally read about in a textbook. I am directly seeing the actions being taken in these projects and observing the changes it has actually made within the region.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Mark Cameron Hatcher

I currently work in the Human Emotions Research Laboratory under Dr. June Tangney where I am a research assistant working on two longitudinal studies. One is a prospective study of moral emotions and cognitions (i.e. shame and guilt) and recidivism of 508 serious offenders. The second is a Randomized Clinical Trial of the restorative justice-inspired Impact of Crime group intervention of 200 jail inmates nearing release into the community. Moreover, Study 2 aims to empirically assess the feasibility and acceptability of victim impact group interventions amongst jail inmates. Both are generally aimed to assess the well being of participants post-release over time in order to enhance offenders’ reintegration into the community.

First and foremost, I am responsible for collecting time-sensitive data, which consists of arranging and conducting structured clinical interviews over the phone with the previously incarcerated. At this point in Study 1 (ongoing since 2002), the majority of participants are eligible for later phases in the project, meaning that most of them have been released into the community. At least two hours a week is dedicated to investigative work aimed to track down and contact participants who are eligible to participate in later phases of the project (we follow-up with participants at minimum every three years up to 12 years post-release). Once a participant is reached, a structured clinical interview can take anywhere from an hour to two hours to complete, depending on the participant. Examples of some of the questionnaires in the interview include HIV Risk Assessment, the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI), and measures that assess family and friend connectedness, community connectedness, and substance abuse. Due to the sensitive nature of some of the questions, I have been trained in suicide assessment as to connect a participant with appropriate referrals and resources when a participant affirms items on a scale that indicate they may be at immediate risk for harming themselves. Outside of data collection and investigative work, I am also responsible for data entry and coding official FBI criminal records to prepare for data entry (to assess recidivism in Study 2). As I have largely been responsible for coding criminal history for repeat offenders over the past couple months, I have learned that criminal records, classification reports, and self-reported criminal behavior are often discrepant with one another. This certainly highlights the challenges of this area of research and any type of longitudinal research that aims to piece together the various aspects of an individual’s life to assess levels of functioning in the community.

I am striving to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology that will give me the flexibility to research the complex interactions between comorbid psychological disorders (e.g. substance abuse disorders and mood or personality disorders) and areas of daily functioning such as academic performance, motivation, and perception of independence. A great deal of meaningful research and literature in the field of Clinical Psychology is longitudinally based; thus, being apart of these longitudinal projects has prepared me for the future as a scholar in this field.

Monday, January 5, 2015

FWS Research Assistant Highlights: Brooke Thomas

I have been working with Dr. Erika Lin for a year and a half now researching festivity in Early Modern literature. The research will be used for her new book which centers on representations of celebrations and holidays in literature in Early Modern England. Most succinctly, I have been doing database research which involves reading and analyzing thousands of Early Modern “books” from the Early English Books Online archive. I put quotations around the word books because they aren’t the normal coda style modern readers and students will think of; books from the Early Modern period can range from single broadside sheets to 800 page treatises on botany. There’s a great variety in the things I have been reading; my favorite has to be a fifty page text on how to blood-let your horse when it gets a headache. I’ve gone through the EEBO database beginning in year 1600 and made it up to year 1610: that’s roughly 4,621 books. Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of reading.

This semester, however, I’ve paused working with EEBO and began analyzing the English Broadside Ballad Archive, sponsored by the University of California Santa Barbara. In my work, I sort the documents I find based on their relevancy to a list of key terms that have to do with Early Modern festivity and holidays. Then, I read the selected documents, in this case ballads, and mark them for references to festivity. If a document does have festive references, I place it in a secondary database for Dr. Lin to reference. Thus far, out of my nearly 4700 readings, I’ve found about 250 relevant books/ballads.

This week, I’ve been working closely with the EBBA archive. I’ve been focusing on ballads that relate especially to “holidays.” So far, I’ve found a lot about literary representations of festive celebrations for Christmas, Easter, and May Day. My favorite reference from this week concerns men and women placing garlands on each other to celebrate May Day.

My position as an OSCAR Research Assistant for Dr. Lin relates directly to what I plan to do in my future career. I love research and the skills I’ve learned through OSCAR and Dr. Lin, especially with database research, will be especially helpful in setting me apart from other applicants for research positions.