Thursday, March 31, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Richard Momii

Back in August of 2015, I was given the privilege of working as a research assistant for GMU’s Center for Psychological Services.  Under the supervision of Dr. Patty Ferssizidis and Dr. Robyn Mehlenbeck, I am part of a research team that is tasked with tracking client demographics and converting client files into data to be used in a statistical model built with SPSS.  Our main goal is to collect data at different points during a client’s treatment in order to monitor outcomes and treatment effectiveness.

More recently, I was tasked with auditing collected client fees for the current fiscal year.  I work closely with Center staff in tracking client files and any associated payments and condensing the data into a brief to be used internally.  This data will eventually be used to help build a projection for the Center’s budget and report total academic revenue being brought in by the Center’s clinicians.  Auditing client files also allows us to collect encounter-related information so that we can track the number of clients served, as well as the total number of client contacts across different service lines (i.e., mental health evaluations, individual and family therapy, etc.) and providers.  The end goal for this project is to help the Center operate more efficiently and highlight potentially problematic methods of client fee recovery and tracking. 

As a non-profit training clinic, GMU’s CPS has been providing mental health services for the surrounding community at a discounted rate.  My past studies in psychology and business, combined with my current work in accounting, allow me to appreciate the impact CPS has made for families and individuals seeking mental health services who otherwise may not be able to afford professional help.  In the future, I hope to be able to use the experience learned here and help other non-profit clinics with similar models to further help individuals gain access to professional mental health services.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Leilani Romero

My name is Leilani Romero, and I am a Graphic Design Intern for Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016. On a weekly basis, what I do for the internship changes. During the Fall semester (2015) I mainly worked on the preparation of the festival. I helped design bookmarks, brochures, and Gallery labels and other similar materials. I also had to conduct some research. Second semester, because the Festival opened in January, has been a little different. Instead of preparation, the focus this semester is mainly on the upcoming events (through March) for AMSSH and also on the magazine we are working on Witness and Memory. For this magazine, each intern wrote an article based on his or her experiences with the project or based on a specific event. One thing I discovered this week was how these festival events and exhibitions around DC can impact a community, and send such a strong message. I can see this experience being related to my long-term goals through the knowledge I am gaining while working for this project. There is definitely a skill set, professionalism, and a lot to be learned about the process and work that goes into a festival as extensive as this one.  As a graphic design intern, designing a lot of the components for the festival has given me a taste of what it will be like to work as a designer post graduation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Ghita

Currently, I am working on a Food and Nutrition project with Dr. Slavin. We started working on it since fall 2015. I had different tasks to do within this project. We first had to collect data through conducting surveys on George Mason campus, then sort the information and analyze it through nutrition software. This project is still on going and we are projected to have the final results for this study by the end of spring 2016. The first phase which was last semester focused more on data collection, while this semester is more focused on sorting the data and analyzing it. Joining this OSCAR Undergraduate Research position helped me tremendously improve my time management, organization, and writing skills. Even though I already have experience working with Excel, data entry and analysis in this project allowed me to learn new tricks. I also got to work with a professional nutritional software for the first time which was a great experience. I see this study very much related to my long-term goals as I’m going into the health-care field and as we all know; one’s nutritional habits have a great impact on their health. I believe that nutrition is a key and maybe a solution to have a healthier America. Working with Dr. Slavin on this project is helping me understand how people or at least students within the campus population perceive their nutritional habits. I am very excited to find the results of this study. I think this will help me communicate better with patients as I’d understand Nutrition from their side of the table.

Monday, March 28, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Diana Asante

In the fall of 2015, I began working with Dr. Abena Aidoo, and our project is centered on "Tourism in Africa”. We are still in the preliminary stages of the research and our goal will be to compare the continent’s tourist arrivals and tourism receipts now from previous years. We are also analyzing the effects technology and social media have had on the various sectors. We meet on a weekly basis. I am assigned to read articles on related topics and write annotated bibliographies. I work to compile several lists of the tourism websites of these different African countries; dividing them into two sectors: public and private; the amount of information each website has, and how that has and will influence tourist activities in that particular country.

The discovery this week has not been greatly different from the previous weeks. There is always the difficulty of finding authentic research papers on tourism in Africa. The data available is scanty. I found a website ( that had listings of hotels for 29 African countries and Pakistan. It allows tourists to reserve rooms when travelling to these countries as well as request other available services.

Though a biology major, I hope to learn about different fields of study. As I work on these websites, I am introduced to a whole new perspective of traditions which will become paramount in my career considering the fact that I would love to work in such countries after obtaining my medical degree. Having an extensive knowledge on the essence of various cultures will play no mean a role in my interactions with people in such communities.

Friday, March 25, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Maggie Greer

The Physiological and Behavioral Neuroscience in Juveniles Lab headed by Dr. Theodore Dumas at the Krasnow Institute aims to uncover brain mechanisms involved in learning and memory.  We focus on hippocampal-dependent processes in mice at the end of the third postnatal week, which is comparable to 2-4 years old in humans.  As an OSCAR rehire in Dr. Dumas’s lab, I have enjoyed opportunities to experience various branches of neuroscience research and I have developed skills that prepare me for a successful future in neuroscience. 

The project I currently work on utilizes various electrophysiological measures testing for neuroplasticity—long lasting functional changes due to experience—implicated in learning and memory.  Two molecular mechanisms found to play a substantial role in plasticity are NMDA and AMPA receptors that bind to glutamate, the brains main “excitatory” neurotransmitter.  When NMDA channels open, they allow calcium to flow into the post-synaptic cell; this causes depolarization and leads to long-term changes.  This means that NMDA receptors have a certain amount of control over information processing and form pathways that activate easier according to environmental stimulus.  Thus, we use transgenic mice with separate domains of NMDA receptors in order to regulate different aspects of spatial cognition distinctive in the hippocampus.  

Electrophysiology allows me to test plasticity in hippocampal neurons of adult vs. adolescent chimeric mice and compare responses to delineate specific mechanisms and their effect on learning and memory.  To obtain the necessary information, I meticulously place a tiny stimulating electrode on the axons of Schaffer collateral cells (pre-synaptic) in a slice of mouse hippocampus—the neurons are kept alive using artificial cerebral spinal fluid—that delivers a stimulus voltage to trigger depolarization via glutamate receptors.  A second hollow recording microelectrode is placed carefully at the cell bodies of CA1 (post-synaptic) cells and records the post-synaptic electrical response.  I also measure responses in “silenced” neurons encoded with fly allatostatin receptors.  When activated, these receptors keep the cell in a hyperpolarized state, thereby blocking all on-going activity.  This provides data relating specific neurons to aspects of hippocampal-dependent learning and memory function.  A majority of my time is spent analyzing the data from the abovementioned tests and making correlations relevant to the goals of our lab.