Monday, November 30, 2015

URSP Student Jesse Roof Evaluates the Cultural Context of Education among Homeless Youth in DC

My project is evaluating the Cultural Context of Education among Homeless Youths Ages 18-24 in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Area.  I am in the process of working on this with my co-researcher Robert Miller. We seek to find out how the cultural understanding of education affects the long term quality of life in individuals who are either currently or formerly homeless. 

This project stemmed from a case competition about the epidemic of homelessness in D.C. that Robert and I participated in.  We chose to further explore this topic through independent research because it is an acknowledged but incredibly misunderstood aspect of homelessness. 

As a future anthropologist I have a sense of duty to use my understanding of culture to benefit society therefore I consider this essential to my career plan.  I am especially interested in the how cultural constructs and disparities throughout society are correlated.  Through project I have been able to further explore the correlation and strongly believe that I have benefited in my understanding of complex social issues.

Majority of my daily schedule revolves around outreach to local shelters in order to find participants for the study.  Soon it will comprise of of onsite interviews with participants in the study.  This week I have discovered how there is continually more work to be done when doing research and that with every step, the project only becomes more complicated yet intriguing. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

URSP Student Logan Rice How Researches How College Couples Disseminate Information, and Manage Interactions via Facebook

I became interested in doing research last year during my honors communication course. I took the course knowing it would give me the chance to do research and to apply for OSCAR. I wanted to challenge myself by trying something new and improving my academic skillset.

I became interested in focusing my project on Facebook research because of my interest in social media. I am a communication major with a concentration in public relations, and social media is a large contributor to this industry. It is related to my long-term goals because social media is the newest, most effective way to communicate with my generation (and it is also the most popular social network site). I think enhancing my understanding of the most popular social media site will help me in my eventual career.

On a weekly basis I have been reading several scholarly articles. I am in the midst of creating a questionnaire to submit to IRB for approval. While reading these articles I am jotting notes on strategies previous scholars use when developing questionnaires to administer to their participants. Also, I am learning about more key concepts that I can use in my literature review when I write this piece of my article.

This week I read an article that further solidified that couples use Facebook for relationship maintenance. I also learned that relationship visibility is defined as the extent to which relationships are shown in self-images conveyed to others. This refers to how often couples post photos of the two together on Facebook to their extended networks.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

URSP Student David Patrick Studies the Relationship between Information Entropy Production and Power Fluctuations in Driven Systems

I was first exposed to the fields of information theory and non-equilibrium systems while working as a volunteer in Dr. Cressman’s lab.  My work has focused on studying the relationships between information entropy production and power fluctuations in driven systems, specifically within structures in electro-convecting liquid crystal.  The goal of the project is to show that there is a connection between information entropy and thermodynamic entropy.  Preliminary results do show a positive correlation between the two.

I am interested in this particular project because of its widespread potential applications. The ways in which these structures allow energy to flow is not currently well understood, but can potentially shed light on the inner workings of countless natural processes. Many wide ranging phenomenon, including hurricanes, large fluctuations in financial markets, and protein folding and other biological processes follow the same general pattern, for which we hope to develop a quantitative description.

It is also in a challenging and demanding field, which will allow me the opportunity to grow creatively as well as intellectually.  My personal goals include contributing to the scientific understanding of these processes, as well as building analytical skills to prepare for a graduate school application.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

URSP Student Johanna Mingos Researches the Effect of Zinc on BDNF in 9-month-old Transgenic Mice Modeling Alzheimer’s Disease

I have always been fascinated by viruses, bacteria, and infectious diseases, and my microbiology labs have reinforced my passion to work in a research lab after graduation. During my junior year, I became an undergraduate research assistant under the direction of Dr. Jane Flinn of the Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience department. Dr. Flinn’s lab examines the role that metals play in Alzheimer’s disease, and I quickly learned that the skills and techniques I had practiced in my Biology labs easily translated to the field of psychology. Assisting a doctoral candidate with Western Blot analysis to examine inflammatory proteins in mice, I learned new laboratory techniques, experimental design, and data analysis. I am continuing this research under USRP as I examine the relationship between zinc and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protein in mice modeling Alzheimer’s disease, and I am looking forward to acquiring additional laboratory skills that I will be able to use across a range of disciplines.

Each week, I conduct a Western Blot analysis on approximately sixteen samples. After performing an assay to determine sample concentrations, I transfer the proteins to imaging membranes via gel electrophoresis. The membranes are incubated overnight with a primary antibody, followed by a secondary antibody and chemiluminescent substrate the next day. The membranes are then exposed using specialized software, and the resulting digital images are analyzed to determine the amount of BDNF present in each animal. The membranes are then re-probed for additional proteins, allowing me to carry out my USRP project while continuing my research assistant duties.

Occasionally, the discoveries made in the lab arise from a lack of experimental results; there can be surprises as we learn about new techniques or more efficient protocols. For example, when the recommended dilution of a specific antibody did not produce membrane images for either control or experimental animals, we used literature searches and additional experimentation to troubleshoot the issue. We determined the correct dilution necessary for our specific protocol, and we were able to obtain viable results in subsequent imaging.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

URSP Student Rebecca Lee Defines an Armed Attack in the Context of Cyber Warfare

Hi, my name is Rebecca Lee and I’m a senior majoring in Global Affairs and minoring in Information Technology and Japanese Studies. This semester, I have the privilege to do my research under the mentorship of Dr. Jim Jones, a professor in the Computer Forensics program within the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. As a Global Affairs major, I have been able to take classes in a variety of different disciplines such as International Politics, Economics, Conflict Resolution, and History to understand global issues and events that are currently going on around the world. After learning about cyber terrorism and warfare in Professor Self’s Geography of Insurgency class during my junior year, I became specifically interested in how cyber attacks are influencing nation-state relations. My research topic involves studying existing international law doctrines to answer my research question “Was Stuxnet considered an armed attack?” In order to answer the question, I will need to draw upon existing legal doctrines to understand what an armed attack to study the 2010 Stuxnet cyber attack. Currently, I am in the process of developing my own definition of what an armed attack is from my readings. On a weekly basis, I spend time writing notes and reading up on existing literature on the topic. From one of my readings this week, I discovered that many legal scholars are arguing that international law doctrines such as the Law of Armed Conflict and the UN Charter Article 51 may possibly not address if cyber attacks are considered armed attacks.

After I graduate, I hope to work for the State Department or in the Intelligence Community to study and work towards developing the legal framework to properly address cyber attacks. As of this moment, there is no clear criteria for determining whether a cyberattack is considered a criminal act or an act of terrorism. I hope to work with policymakers or legal scholars in this particular field to find solutions. Therefore, I believe my current research on this topic will help me to achieve my long-term goals.