Thursday, December 20, 2018

URSP Student Ferris Samara Analyzes the True Authorship of the Works Published under Former Congressman David Crockett’s Name

Since my first class with Dr. David Holmes, I was greatly interested in the field of statistics he specialized in: stylometry, the statistical analysis of literary style.  When Dr. Holmes shared with the class about the projects he has taken up and how he’s used this to attribute authorship to contested works, I knew this was a topic I needed to learn more about. During the summer of my senior year, Dr. Holmes kindly let me join his project of analyzing the true authorship of the works published under former Congressman David Crockett’s name. Evidence stacks against Crockett being the author of these works, given his lack of a formal education and historical accounts of ghostwriters. 

We immediately started on gathering more evidence about the potential ghostwriters of the books and finding sources on their books. From there, we began to compile text files of all the books together. Each text chunk of about 4,000 words needed to be nicely organized and edited to ensure that the analysis would run smoothly. Since we collected all of those files and had all the necessary information together, we have begun to plan and run the analysis, the stage we are currently in. The analysis will be mostly relying on the identification of non-contextual words (such as “or”, “and”, “the), and computing how frequently each author uses these words. Since everyone uses non-contextual words at a unique frequency, we will see how these differ and compute the distances between them using different statistical measures. 

This project has taught me how interlinked statistics can be with other fields of study and has inspired me to continue this work in different languages. Dr. Holmes and I plan to conduct a stylometric analysis on a heavily disputed Russian work, which will allow me to combine my passion for languages with the new skills I have developed learning about the wonders of stylometry.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

URSP Student Abigail Loughlin Investigates the Influence of Conflict, Policy, and American Interventions on the Access to Water in the West Bank in Palestine

Throughout the Fall 2018 semester, I conducted a research study focused on the water quality conditions of the West Bank in Palestine and how these conditions have been shaped by the conflict in the region, the policies in place, and the involvement on the United States.  The project aimed to answer the following questions: how the policies in place regulate water accessibility in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, who are the primary actors participating in the creation of water policy, what is the environmental impact of these policies actions, what are the limits and possibilities of these policies, and what is the potential for sustainable development of water infrastructure in the region.By investigating the water regulations in place, as well as U.S. presence in this conflict, this research intended to increase the knowledge on the topic, encourage growth in the field of conflict resolution paired with environmental sustainability, and raise awareness for populations being denied basic necessities. 

I developed this research question with the intention to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since it has been a topic conversation within my household, as well as within my studies in college while minoring in Middle Eastern studies. I hope that by reframing the conflict as a case of environmental injustice this will help attract a new audience of support which has been absent from the conflict. This project is not only significant to me for the discussions I hope to inspire, but for my own pursuit of knowledge and my desire to create a defensive argument for a region and ethnic group which has been neglected for too long. In my professional career I plan to work with ecologically vulnerable areas and populations, particularly in the Middle East, aspiring to raise environmental awareness and increasing the potential for equal environmental conditions. 

On a weekly basis I have conducted literature reviews of primary and secondary sources, and academic journals, conducted interviews with professionals and academics who have expertise in the conflict, and met with my advisor to help shape and direct the path of my research. My schedule has included developing personalized questions based on expertise and focused on various aspects of the research project, coordinating time meet with those I interviewed, and searching for and analyzing online and print sources. This research project has solidified the direction of my career path to focus on cases of environmental injustice in the Middle East and to continue to study the impact of conflict on the environment. Additionally, it has taught me the importance of investigating the stories of oppressed populations in order to dispel misconceptions and discover the truth. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

URSP Student Elias Khayat Researches Alzheimer’s Disease

When I came to Mason as a freshman, I joined Dr. Jane Flinn’s cognitive and behavioral neuroscience lab to learn more about research and get an idea of what it entailed. I was paired with Bill Kochen, now my URSP mentor, to help him with his project on Alzheimer’s Disease. Through that project, I got to learn a lot about scientific inquiry and the scientific method. Last year, Bill suggested that I come up with a project of my own. At the time, a family member of mine was affected with dementia and symptoms began to arise, but during a stretch of a couple of months, he wasn’t in touch with a lot of people and that’s when the disease escalated, and the symptoms became much more severe. Using my personal experience and the one I gained from the lab, I came up with the idea to study the effects of social isolation on Alzheimer’s Disease both behaviorally and pathologically.
On a weekly basis, I handle the mice 3 times, and depending on the timeline my mentor and I set, I run different experiences or procedures such as genotyping, sex differentiating, behavioral testing or immunohistochemistry staining. One thing I learned about research, and specifically animal research is that lots of patience is required, and perseverance is key. To put things into perspectives, it took three months for our 24-page IACUC paperwork to be accepted.
I am very thankful for my mentors who have encouraged to do research. Unlike undergraduate classes, you get to come up with your own ideas and ways to test them. It takes your mind to places it hasn’t been before and truly makes you want to learn and understand the how and why of science. Though I am still in the beginning phase of this research project, I am looking forward to the challenges I will face along the way which will help me become a better scientist cable of advancing human knowledge.

Monday, December 17, 2018

URSP Student Dana Kahle Researches Francisella tularensis

I first decided I wanted a career in research when I was six years old. I had just finished watching a National Geographic special on new uses for snake venom, and thought, “if they can do that, why can’t I cure cancer?” and so began my research career! I have grown tremendously and certainly refined my research interests and goals since then. Currently, my research interests are strongly immunology-based. 

Last semester I had the privilege of joining the van Hoek lab, based on the SciTech campus. My lab focuses heavily on all things Francisella tularensis. My interest in my project began when I learned about how Francisella evades our immune system’s defenses: it produces a protein homolog to signal to our cells to stop a signal cascade that otherwise results in bacterial lysis. What a sneaky bacterium! Not much is known about the pathogenicity processes of Francisella tularensis; as a result, I study its intracellular replication with the hope of elucidating the role some proteins play in these processes. 

On a weekly basis, I spend most of my time doing tissue culture. This involves a lot of general caretaking: changing media and adjusting cell density. Truthfully, this semester has also involved a lot of troubleshooting. Bacteria will grow happily in a variety of conditions, but that growth window is a lot narrower for eukaryotic cells. I am overall grateful for the troubleshooting, though, as tissue culture is one of the principal techniques in any immunological study and I will absolutely use this knowledge in my future work. 

I am incredibly thankful for this semester because it has taught me, above all else, how to be resilient and how to think on my feet. No scientist wants to see her experiments fail, but a critical part of being a scientist is learning how to make those failures into learning experiences. This is a skill that is truly translational and is something I am so thankful to OSCAR and the URSP experience for bestowing upon me.

Friday, December 14, 2018

URSP Student Gerson Galindo Researches Cyclic Corrosion Fatigue of Aluminum

My name is Gerson Galindo, and I am a senior mechanical engineering student at George Mason University. My research consists of studying the effects that corrosion has on the fatigue life of Aluminum alloy 7075 T651 ( a commonly used material for aircrafts). My interest on this topic began when I took a material science course, one of the topics covered in that class was corrosion. I learned that during the design of an engineering structure, corrosion plays an important factor. Corrosion can reduce the life of the structure, lower the safety factors, and increase financial costs. Corrosion is inevitable, corrosion comes in different forms and any engineering design will always be expose to a corrosion environment. My activities consist on going to the machine shop and cut metal using different tools, taking the machined specimens to the lab and run corrosion and fatigue tests. I analyze the experimental data and find correlations from previous research. I document every source and procedure of the experiment. I am grateful for having the opportunity to explore an area of my interest and contribute to the literature of corrosion. The OSCAR program helps students to test their hypothesis and come with conclusion in the research field. This allow students to come with novel ideas, as well as enrich their academic background. When my research ends, I plan on publishing my findings on an engineering publisher. Moreover, I have plans to attend conferences where I can share my research. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

URSP Student Gabriel Earle Studies Acoustic Monitoring of Manufacturing Infrastructure

My name is Gabriel Earle and I am a Civil Engineering student here at Mason. I became interested in
doing research this semester in order to further my academic pursuits and gain some different perspectives on Civil Engineering. Last Spring, I met with Dr. David Lattanzi, a structural engineering professor here at Mason, and he shared with me details about an upcoming project that involved audio data. I was thrilled to hear this, because I had a lot of experience with audio from my hobbies as a music producer and drummer, and I never expected to be able to use this knowledge in an academic setting.

This semester I worked with the guidance of Dr. Lattanzi and one of his graduate students, Jeff Bynum, on the project. The primary focus of our work this semester was to evaluate the feasibility of using acoustic data (audio) signals for inspecting and analyzing the movements of manufacturing infrastructure. We explored using machine learning to detect what kind of movements the machines were making. Specifically, a convolutional neural network (CNN) which attempts to learn the characteristic features in the audio of each kind of movement the machine could make. CNNs are a technique primarily used in image processing, so in order to implement acoustic data, we created spectrograms of our data set. Spectrograms are 3-dimensional visual representations of audio which display frequency intensity over time for the entire audible frequency spectrum. We utilized the spectrograms frequency intensity data much like color intensity data might be used in a traditional image processing approach. 

So far, our methods are gaining more and more capability to segment the audio data into machine movements that are verifiably correct against video data. We hope to continue to work on our data models and continue to look into the damage detection side of the research question in the coming weeks and months. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

URSP Student Enya Calibuso Examines Child- and School-Level Predictors of School Mobility in Middle School Students

Text Box: Enya Calibuso
UNIV 495
11 – 20 – 18 
Tacoma, Washington; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Latina, Italy; Eagle River, Alaska; Dumfries, Virginia; Johannesburg, South Africa; Orono, Maine; and Alexandria, Virginia – What do all of these cities and countries have in common? Well they’ve catalyzed my research interests. Growing up in a military family, having moved 8 times, lived on 3 continents, and attended 9 schools, I’ve witnessed firsthand the resilience needed in highly mobile students. Through the Psychology Honors Program and the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, I’ve had the great opportunity to work with Dr. Adam Winsler to examine Child- and School-Level Predictors of School Mobility in Middle School Students.These research-intensive programs have equipped me with the skills (data analyses, conducting literature reviews, and preparing materials for grants and conferences), knowledge (specific to applied developmental psychology), and experience needed to further my education in hopes of attending a MD-PhD program specializing in psychiatry and French. 

On a weekly basis, my duties typically consist of revising my honors thesis. This semester, I’ve been working on editing my literature review to integrate feedback from my mentor, double its length, reorganize its structure to be in accordance with APA formatting, and add an additional theoretical framework. I’ve also begun to address the gaps in the literature, my proposed study, its methodology, and a data analysis plan to move forward. Throughout this process, I’ve discovered that predictors of increased school mobility include being African American, being in poverty, attending a low-quality school and/or center-based early care, and having a disability. Importantly, researchers attempting to claim that school mobility has adverse effects on students’ academic performance and school completion need to understand and statistically control for these pre-existing differences between movers and non-movers before analyzing outcomes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

URSP Student Eleri Burnett Researches The Economic Impacts of Losing a Coastal Shorebird Along the East Coast

The project I am currently researching attempts to assign a monetary value to an endangered shorebird along the East Coast Shoreline named the Piping Plover. In order to do this, I have pulled together data assigning the value of the ecosystem services of the Plover, essentially meaning what the organism provides for the habitat that it is in. 

I have always had an interest in birds, and as a business and finance major, I wanted to attempt a project that could link my two passions and provide a means of incentive for conservation of this bird and all birds in a way that could mutually benefit local economies along the east coast. If I am able to provide a compelling argument that the value of this bird is worth its conservation for the economic benefit it brings communities, more citizens can relate to the money factor and may be more willing to provide resources to help with wildlife conservation.

Even though multiple people told me this project was not going to be easy, I wanted to give it a shot anyway. I spent most of the former half of the semester researching methods and looking at how other researchers came about their economic data. After I used this data, I spent days mapping the precise territory of the Piping Plover’s territory through its sightings and use of an online map feature. The final month has been analyzing the concluding number and its significance. With this, I made the realization that many can say a project may be tough, but nothing is impossible; if you are willing to put forth the effort to complete something, it is absolutely possible. Sometimes, especially with hardship, it’s easy to get demotivated, but if you persevere and remember why you initially took on this research project, you may once again find your footing.

Monday, December 10, 2018

URSP Student Shervin Abdollahi Investigates Fabrication of Implantable Hydrogel Devices with Component Responsive to Light and Ultrasound for Localized Chemotherapy

Having lost my grandfather to cancer at a very young age, was one of the main reasons I got interested in my URSP project. I was only 7 years old when my grandfather got diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. As the only viable treatment option his doctors recommended systemic chemotherapy in which the drug is sent all over the body in order to target and destroy the affected cancerous tissue. However, my grandfather’s organs couldn’t hold on to the treatment for very long and we lost him shortly thereafter. Growing up, I always wondered what a good viable alternative to the systemic chemotherapy could be and once I joined the Bioengineering team here at George Mason University, I found out about different research around this topic.  

Localized chemotherapy is among successful treatment options recently developed for cancer therapy. With this approach, the chemotherapeutic drug can be locally delivered to the affected cancerous tissue and released on demand via implantable drug loaded devices. These devices are mainly composed of a thermosensitive hydrogel embedding certain dosage of chemotherapeutic drug and photosensitive nanoparticles. Once the hydrogel receives enough heat energy from noninvasive energy sources such as laser and ultrasound, it contracts and release the drug embedded in it. Photosensitive nanoparticles can accelerate this heating process, by absorbing light energy that is tuned to their wavelengths and transforming that as heat energy into the hydrogel. 

My biggest challenge in this project was optimizing the hydrogel fabrication process. Since each hydrogel fabrication attempt takes 3 days, I work in the lab few consecutive days every week to develop my hydrogel and find out the optimal drug load concentration. Along this project, I learned to design some 3-D mold structures for my implantable device made of PDMS. While there is still a great deal of work needs to be done for this project, I feel honored to have played small part in developing new treatment options for cancer patient. Cancer treatment research has been my long-time interest and I am planning to continue this research for my graduate studies. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

USTF Student Karlie Berry Presents the Perceptions of Programming inside Diversionary Treatment Units

This past November, I had the opportunity to attend the American Society of Criminology (ASC) conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  ASC is an annual conference that allows students, scholars, and professionals throughout the criminal justice and criminology community to discuss various topics of interest within the field. Although presentations range from focusing on subjects such as juveniles or policing to ideas including terrorism or technology, my panel presentation discussed the correctional system.  I explored the perceptions of programming inside Diversionary Treatment Units, which are essentially restricted housing units for severely mentally ill.  After many days of interviewing, observing, and analyzing data, my findings concluded that even though staffs’ perceptions of inmate programming is generally positive, they do not believe that the types of programs are appropriate or the process acceptable.  This is an important disconnect to recognize because it affects frontline implementation and application by the staff, and ultimately, the livelihood of inmates. All in all, the conference was an amazing opportunity and an unforgettable experience as it allowed me to hone my presenting skills, increase my knowledge about criminal justice innovations, and meet many admirable individuals.           

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

USTF Student Farbod Moghaddam Presents Research at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exhibition

I had the opportunity to present a research project that I have been working on for over year at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exhibition the weekend of November 9th – 11th. During my time at the conference, I attended committee meetings where I participated in conversations regarding early career engineer development and leadership enhancement for student projects. My colleagues and I also attended the ASME Old Guard competitions where the communication skills of pre-professional engineers were challenged in an effort to promote the development of societal engineers. At the undergraduate expo where I presented my poster on the development of high performance gas sensors based on 3D porous graphene and RFID, I met numerous undergraduates working on some incredibly fascinating topics including bone strength enhancement, development of nanofibers using worm silk, and introducing artificial bandgaps to graphene through atomic stitching for development of next generation transistors. Throughout the event I also had an opportunity to interact with faculty members from different universities and members from the industry to communicate the impact of our work and network. Overall, the experience was incredibly rewarding and eye opening in terms of what topics were being explored by other undergraduate researchers in the field.

Monday, December 3, 2018

USTF Student Daniel Mitchell Presents Nanomaterials Research at International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition in Pittsburgh

My name is Daniel Scott Mitchell and I am a B.S. Mechanical Engineering Candidate (’20) and Honors College student here at George Mason University.

Over the past 14 months, I have been developing a novel, cost-effective, and scalable method to fabricate the nanomaterial graphene with Dr. Pilgyu Kang (Mechanical Engineering), Farbod Moghaddam (Mechanical Engineering ’19), and our collaborators from the Korea Research Institute for Chemical Technology in Daejeon, South Korea. Our research has shown that our graphene has great promise for practical applications, including high-sensitivity and wireless gas sensing.

This November, Farbod and I had the opportunity to present our research at ASME’s International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was a thought-provoking and humbling experience to share our work at the world’s largest mechanical engineering conference and interface with our field’s top researchers, scholars, and industry leaders. In the future, I am excited for further research regarding graphene and pursuing academia as a whole.