Sunday, December 29, 2019

URSP Student Holly To Analyzes Water Samples with Chromatogram

During the winter break of 2017, I assisted my professor on learning about new equipment known as the ion chromatogram in the lab. I learned how to use the ion chromatograph as well as create necessary components for the data acquisition process. I found that enjoyable and wanted to develop my own findings in relation to human land use. When I think about my long-term goals, I believe it will play a large role in the direction I am aiming towards. I hope to one day attend medical school; I’ve learned that laboratory experience is a necessity. This project has allowed me to gain laboratory experience which I can apply to my resume.

On a weekly basis, I would run standard water analysis, including pH, turbidity, conductivity, alkalinity, and total suspended mass. This would be done to my water samples that I collect biweekly. Furthermore, I am also beginning to collect pore or soil water as well as collect soil samples to analyze. All water samples are then analyzed through an ion chromatogram to determine the ion levels. What I discovered in my time researching is that keeping a detailed log is important. Knowing when standards expire, and how long ago you made certain solutions are important to getting precise data as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

URSP Student Donnelle Bodnarchuk Researches the Relations between Eastern Europe and Church During the Cold War

After working with Dr. Kelly in my HIST 300 class, I really enjoyed the historical research process, and I thought it would be fascinating to work on a project with Dr. Kelly since he has always pushes me to be a better historian. And so, we worked on an idea for a topic. I knew I wanted to focus on eastern Europe and Church relations during the Cold War, and after about a month of discussions, we decided on Pope John Paul II and Poland with some general outlines of a project. It was more of an interest in the historical process that led me to the project rather than starting out with an idea. As for my long-term goals, I am planning on pursuing a PhD in history, so any experience in original historical research will be helpful. I’m not sure if I plan on pursuing this actual topic beyond this project, but it has the potential for it. Either way, I have benefited from the actual experience of this project; it is going to be something that I’ll carry with me through all future academic endeavors, as well as professional.

On a weekly basis my work varied depending on the work that needed to be done for my actual classes. But, I was doing something every week. For the first half of the semester, I solely did research. Each week I read various documents related to my project, ranging from Pope John Paul II to the Polish Crisis. As I would do that, I would analyze the documents trying to see how each were connected and what they were all trying to tell me. Like Dr. Kelly always told me, I let my sources guide me to my question. For the second half of the semester I wrote. Each week I would write here and there, and some days I would focus solely on my citations. The work of each week depended on the other work I had to do, but I was always managing some time to dedicate to my project. I learned this semester that I thoroughly enjoy historical research, which only makes me want to pursue my PhD even more than I already had.

Friday, December 27, 2019

URSP Student Liam Timmons Presents Research at APSA Annual Meeting

In August 2019, I presented my research on incumbency advantage in Virginia city council elections at the 2019 American Political Science Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.I had a poster presentation in a session with a number of graduate students. This was a unique experience because the conference did not use a physical poster, but instead I had to create a digital poster which was displayed on a TV screen in a room at the conference. This allowed them to switch between poster sessions quickly, which I found interesting. I also enjoyed the unique format because I felt less constrained in the amount of information I could include. On a physical poster, space is always an issue, and I would have had to cut some part of my presentation off of my poster if it were printed. However, the digital poster allowed me to include much more information and let my presentation flow in a more natural way.

In addition to presenting my poster, I found APSA to be a valuable and enriching experience because of the interesting panels and presentations I attended, as well as the vendor fair where I learned about new tools, interesting publications, and career opportunities in political science. It was fascinating to walk around the convention hall and see everything the vendors had to offer. Overall, I thought presenting my research at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting was enjoyable personally and valuable for my career. Participating in URSP this summer allowed me to have this opportunity, and I am thankful to the OSCAR team and to my mentor Professor McGrath for all the help in turning my project into what it became

Thursday, December 26, 2019

URSP Student Ume Tahir Investigates the Thermodynamics of Perfume-Myelin Basic Protein Interactions Using Equilibrium Headspace Gas Chromatography

I was initially interested in doing research after having taken CHEM 321 (Quantitative Chemical Analysis), possibly in the areas of physical/analytical chemistry. The project that I am currently working on has spanned the course of three semesters, and explores the thermodynamics of the noncovalent interactions between perfume components and various proteins, making use of equilibrium headspace gas chromatography. This is an incredible combination of my interests, ranging from understanding protein behavior to deriving thermodynamic quantities. My long-term goal is to pursue a PhD in biophysical chemistry, and this project has provided me with a variety of knowledge and skills that can be applied in that pursuit.

This work involves preparation of a protein sample of an ideal concentration that gives us sufficient data prior and subsequent to the critical aggregation concentration. The solution is stored in an auto syringe that is programmed to inject a particular volume of protein over certain time intervals. A sample cell contains an infinitely dilute perfume solution, into which the protein is injected. The vapor in this cell is sampled after an equilibration period. Changes in vapor composition are tracked with equilibrium headspace gas chromatography. The resulting data is used to calculate many thermodynamic parameters. This includes association constants for perfume components and monomeric protein, activity coefficients, and partition coefficients. These values allow judgement of the thermodynamic favorability of the noncovalent interactions involved.

Although I have started with the experimental phase of my work this semester, I am working on data analysis, so am unable to say anything conclusive about results. Based on our outcomes in previous semester, I am anticipating highly thermodynamically favorable noncovalent interactions.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

URSP Student John Recktenwald Conducts Research on Project, "Additively Manufactured Dry Nanoparticle Lubricant Infused ABS Polymer"

I am currently researching polymers in GMU’s Tribology and Surface Mechanics laboratory continuing research I started in the Spring of 2019. My current research is titled, "Additively Manufactured Dry Nanoparticle Lubricant Infused ABS Polymer" and the basic premise is that we reduce ABS plastic into a polymer soup using acetone and mixing very small particles of dry lubricant, for example graphite, into the polymer. The objective of this is to attempt to reduce the polymer’s coefficient of friction. Currently polymers have a very high friction coefficient which makes them non-viable for high load gear trains, as such a system would wear out rapidly. Other than their high friction coefficient polymers have a superior strength to weight ratio to modern steel gear trains, thus overcoming this hurdle should make polymer gear trains viable in high load use cases. Of course, ABS is not the strongest polymer for gears. Thus, I am also exploring mixing polymers to help decrease the friction coefficient and increase wear resistance further. The idea here is to use the dry lubricant infused ABS as a carrier as the other plastics we are mixing with the ABS are more difficult to directly add dry lubricants to. 

Currently I am in the process of conducting a literature review to determine which polymers I want to use alongside the ABS for this research. Over the next few weeks I will be constructing a gear wear testing apparatus designed by an OSCAR research group in the Spring of 2019, will begin fabricating samples of different concentrations of dry lubricant, and additive plastic. In order to make our samples we first dissolve ABS in acetone and then stir nanoparticle lubricants into the resulting slurry. The acetone is allowed to dissolve off in a fume hood resulting in a solid block of particle infused ABS plastic. This block is then shredded into ¼” pieces and poured into our Noztek 3D printer filament maker. We then use this filament in any 3D printer to fabricate whatever shapes we desire.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

URSP Student Davesh Purohit Isolates the Compounds that Emit the Molecular Marker for Parkinson’s Disease using DART-MS

My name is Davesh Purohit and I am a Neuroscience major researching on Parkinson’s disease with my mentor-John Schreifels. I first heard about this project from John Schreifels, I was intrigued by his motivation to help his sister—who has Parkinson disease—by creating an instrument that can quickly detect the presence of the disease. Since there was no clinical method to detect the disease, I clearly saw the need for a process to detect the disease as a pre-med student since millions of Americans are affected by it every year. John Schreifels was diving into a theory that involved the usage of a Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometer (DART-MS) to detect Parkinson’s from a patient’s stench or body fluids. My goal for this research project is to isolate the compounds that emit as the molecular marker for parkinson’s. The DART-MS was designed to detect the molecular weight of any substance, so the goal for this instrument was to successfully detect the molecules that are responsible for creating a stench in a sample of Listerine mouthwash.

Throughout this semester, we primarily worked on maintenance of the DART-MS and performing ionization experiments. My weekly tasks would include ordering supplies, analyzing compounds that are linked to Parkinson’s, and doing the proper data analysis to distinguish unnecessary data from necessary data. This took a lot of time and effort since this field of research is primarily new to the scientific community. So, the reliance on new published research journals on the topic of Parkinson’s disease was crucial to me and my mentor before we could move onto our next step. The next phase of our research will include human trials and analyzing their body fluids, sweat, and breath samples to hopefully identify the same molecular markers/ chemicals that causes parkinson’s. One thing I took away from this research project is the amount of help you can get from different companies, George Mason faculty, and mentors if you simply ask for help. I would have never gotten this far in this research project if it weren’t for the assistance of my superiors. As I progress onwards with this research project, more questions will be asked than answers would be given; but I’m excited to see how this project will impact the scientific community in the future.

Monday, December 23, 2019

URSP Student Jessica McDonough Collects Data on Students Behavior towards STARSHIP Delivery Robots on George Mason Campus

I am currently a senior Psychology student who has been working as a research assistant in human factors/applied cognition labs for the past two years, and this is where my interest in the interaction between humans and technology was sparked. When the Starship robots were first introduced on campus last semester, I knew they would provide a unique opportunity for study. While formal data collection is now underway, I could tell from my own personal empirical observations that data collected from this would yield interesting results about students’ behaviors and attitudes towards the delivery robots.

I am primarily carrying out this study as a part of the Psychology department’s honors program where in it I am completing an undergraduate thesis project. It is my hope that I will be able to use this data to help complete my thesis as well as for use in future projects in graduate school.

At this stage, I am still enrolling participants in the experiment and meeting up with them to set up their experiment accounts that we will be collecting their longitudinal data with. The bulk of what I am doing now is managing the proper collection of this data and it is expected that preliminary analysis will begin later in the semester, and will hopefully be completed by the end of this semester or the beginning of the next. I definitely expected data collection for this project to be more passive than it is. Correct longitudinal collection that is in line with the IRB’s stipulations requires an active role and lots of double checking.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

URSP Student Tharuna Kalaivanan Tackles Racialization Affecting First-generation Asian-Americans’ Perception of Organizational Commitment and Identification

As a first-generation college student, I was always interested in the ways individuals made sense of their identity while growing up in a bi-cultural environment. I moved to America when I was three years old, but my family still followed Indian traditions. Outside of home, I assimilated to American culture, but each culture prompted various expectations of how one should behave. These expectations did not always align, making it difficult to navigate my racial identity.

I joined Dr. Blake Silver’s research lab as the Lead Research Assistant where I was able to conduct research with peers on first-generation American college seniors. The idea of varying expectations was a prominent theme among seniors transitioning out of college. I wanted to further explore these expectations and I was grateful that Mason provided opportunities to undergraduates to pursue research. Through OSCAR I was able to obtain a research grant in which I will try to understand how racialization affects first-generation Asian-Americans’ perception of organizational commitment and identification. Racialization is the social pressure to act a certain way based on one’s race. For first-generation Asian-Americans this can be an issue as they are pinned as a model minority, meaning that even though they are recognized as a minority, they are understood to have prevailed the disadvantages that marginalized groups encounter. This perception, however, leads many people to overlook the struggles that this population faces.

First-generation Asian-Americans’ identities tend to be dual in nature, incorporating their parent’s culture and contemporary American culture. It is important that workplaces provide a safe environment where these unique identities can flourish as diversity is a growing concern in organizations. Racialization may pressure individuals to act a certain way due to their racial or ethnic identity which can affect their identity at work as well as their relationship with the organization. My goal with this OSCAR project is to collect data through a mixed methods study to understand how first-generation Asian-Americans navigate their identities in the workplace. My long-term goal is to communicate to organizations the experiences of first-generation Asian-Americans and how companies can help them better accommodate and provide a safe environment where these individuals can express their identities without being reduced to racial stereotypes. I want to expand the conversation within the inclusion and diversity sector of businesses in order to make the bond between the individual and organization stronger. As businesses become more globalized, it is important to consider the inherent complexities of ethnic communities in the workplace

Saturday, December 21, 2019

URSP Student Isaiah Cohen Examine the Relationship between Three Solar Activities: Solar Flares, Sunspots, and Coronal Mass Ejections

My interest in the Sun has been an important part of my life since high school. Sparked by a science fiction story, I became fascinated by the power of the Sun and how it affects all aspects of the solar system from life on Earth to the dust storms on Mars. While it nurtures all life on Earth, it has the potential to be immensely destructive in ways we are only beginning to understand. Outbursts highly-charged particles called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) wreak havoc on satellites, communications systems, and have at times even caused mass blackouts over large areas; as our technology grows more advanced and delicate, the larger the threat CMEs pose.

In my research project I wanted to examine the relationship between three solar activities: solar flares, sunspots, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in order to try and find a way to predict when CMEs would occur. To do this, I examined analyzed that NASA and NOAA distribute to the public for no charge; it is available for download on official websites. I focused on the period of 1996 to 2018 for my analysis: this would give me a view of two solar cycles (roughly 11-year patterns of solar activity), and the majority of CME observations have been taken within that time frame.

Most of my project involved creating and altering programs in Interactive Data Language (IDL) to convert the raw data from text files to workable sets of numbers: there were simply far too many data points to process them manually. There was a steep learning curve: I had never used IDL before beginning this project, and while it was similar in some respects to Python, a language I had experience with, I am far from a master of coding. By the end of the semester I now have at least a functional, if not elegant, grasp of the language and have successfully wrangled these tens of thousands of data points into coherent results. Apart from the results themselves, I’m proud of my growth as a scientist over the course of this project. It forced me to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time, and I think I learned a lot that I might not have in a traditional class environment: I now feel more prepared to conduct similar research projects in the future

Friday, December 20, 2019

URSP Student Melissa Alberto Creates own Dataset and Analysis to Give Stakeholders a Perspective for what Districts need more Funding Over Time

Growing up and attending school in one of the most affluent counties in the country, I never realized that my educational experience was one of privilege and opportunity. However, during my senior year of high school, I began to take note of the educational disparities even within my own school. It was these noticeable trends that interested me in researching equity and adequacy within the American education system while in college. Building on my freshman Honors College project, which was focused on the effects of teacher quality on the achievement among minority students post-No Child Left Behind, I am now analyzing school funding across the Commonwealth of Virginia with my OSCAR URSP project. Since Virginia is one of very few states that has not implemented any major school finance reform in the past 25 years, my project is focused on preliminary financial analysis that would be necessary in addressing the issues of equity in funding. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, I created my own data set that includes demographics, revenue, expenditure, and achievement data on all school districts within the Commonwealth from 1995 to 2016. With my data set, I will be able to analyze relevant analyses on several relationships that are important in answering my research question such as the association between amount of revenue from different levels on per-pupil spending and the associations between the demographic make-up of a districts, its free/reduced lunch participation, diploma completion and per-pupil spending. Ultimately, my hope is for this project to serve as a foundation for change to school funding in Virginia.

While Virginia has shielded itself from school finance litigation, it is still pertinent to understand that the funding model still contributes to inequities among each district. The analyses that I will be conducting will give stakeholders a perspective into what districts need more funding and an understanding into the overall trends across a long period of time. This is an imperative first step in addressing the issues of inequity and adequacy in Virginia. While this semester I have been able to complete much of the preliminary analysis, specifically noticing any trends between revenue, expenditures, demographics, and achievement, I hope to further develop this project beyond my time with the OSCAR URSP. Having Former Secretary of Education Anne Holton as my advisor has not only allowed me the necessary insight into formulating and executing this project, but also provided me supplementary resources such as connections with other Mason professors and colleagues has been an invaluable experience. Calling Virginia home has always made me so proud and doing my part to improve it in a small way will be an honor.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

STIP Student Brian Kochan Studies Ecology and Forensic Entomology

I was initially interested in the summer impact project “Ecology meets Forensic Entomology” because a staff member I work with during the school year on a native grasses and bee research project suggested I apply. Given my general interest in entomology and succession community dynamics, I felt the project would give me great research experience and improve my ability to identify, organize, and analyze entomology samples. Although I did not have direct interest in forensic science, medical entomology and public health have always been of interest to me, and this summer seemed like an opportunity to widen my horizons in interdisciplinary work. The skills I would learn this summer about how to conduct research will be important as I begin graduate school after graduating this Fall 2019. I would also like to continue working on projects involving invertebrates and their conservation and applications in ecology in the future, and this project gave me great experience with identification and general knowledge of forensically significant taxa such as Calliphoridae, Sarcophagidae, Muscidae and Fannidae flies and Staphylyndae and Silphidae beetles.

During the first 2 weeks of the OSCAR summer impact program we spent almost all of our time in the field at the Clifton Institute, placing 48 carcasses under emergence tents to collect samples. We returned daily to check on the samples, record observations and collect samples to be stored in ethanol and brought back to the lab. Once the initial collection was completed, we spent our following weeks in the lab working together to identify the forensically significant members of the samples, pinning specimen for collections, and discussing our hypothesis.

During this experience I discovered my strengths and weaknesses regarding research and made a plan for this coming semester to improve certain research skills during my internship such as grant application, budgeting grant money, writing proposals, and general science communication skills. By setting these objectives, I will improve my chances of being successful in graduate school and beyond.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

URSP Student Sam Yee Investigates 2-Dimensional Materials for Photonic Utilization

I first became interested in the study of 2-Dimensional(2D) materials when I began investigating undergraduate research opportunities within the Physics Department at GMU.  2D materials have tremendous potential to change the landscape of technology as the maximum efficiency and overall sized of electronics are largely determined by the individual components inside them.

During my time in the Vora Lab I have learned many valuable skills in 2D material handling and sample preparation.  I have learned and practiced methods of optical experiment design, assembly, alignment and calibration. I have also fine-tuned techniques of sample data collection and analysis.  Finally, I have been immersed in the field of 2D materials research as I review other researcher’s publications, prepare reports on my own experiments, and write proposals for funding, which are all invaluable skills within the field of optics.

 For a normal week I prepare 2D samples for measurement and then take various images and spectral measurements of those samples.  I setup, align and calibrate optical equipment that is used in gathering those data.  I process and analyze the data that I have collected as well as prepare summaries for my mentors and the other research teams we corroborate with.  I also review several current research papers that my professor highlights from my field.  I converse with my graduate student mentors several times a day as well as my professor mentor about once a day.  I sit in on conference calls or meetings with other research groups, both at GMU as well as other universities regarding various topics currently under investigation in our lab.  Finally, I review and answer emails from these other groups regarding our research.
I am honored and grateful for the opportunity provided by the URSP to conduct research in the field of optics and 2D materials.  I am also very grateful my mentors, Dr. Patrick Vora, and graduate students, Sean Oliver and Jaydeep Joshi who provided invaluable advice and guidance throughout the duration of this study.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

STIP Student Kara Wright Explores Forensic Nursing with Image Analysis and Data Management

The opportunity to conduct research and complete data analysis sparked my interest in participating in the Summer Team Impact project. This was also a great way to learn more about job responsibilities forensic clinicians, which requires a great degree of compassionate care towards patients. Everything that I have learned about research and forensic nursing this summer has greatly impacted my long-term career goals. I now feel like I have an understanding of the steps required to conduct a research study, as well as the many different roles forensic nurses have their patient’s plan of care.

On a weekly basis, my research partner and I complete data analysis on our supervisor’s previous research study. This entails cleaning up bruise image files, renaming images, and verifying image information across data collection platforms. We have also been conducting our own research study since mid-way through the summer and have been seeing participants and collecting data for our poster project.

I discovered how interconnected different disciplines of study are in real-world situations. Nurses often rely on health informatics staff to help streamline their workflow on computer software while engineers look to nursing staff to understand physiological occurrences when analyzing how machines learn from human subject images.

Monday, December 16, 2019

STIP Student Jeremy Williams Investigates the Complexities and Dynamics of Aquatic Life

Life in the aquatic environment has always had my interest since I was young. It’s just something about life under water that fascinates me. My OSCAR research project this summer has been a phenomenal experience so far. Learning about fish communities and assemblages has shown me a different perspective of life. I never really knew how dynamic and complex a fish’s life could be until I came here. Now, I have developed appreciation, care, and respect for all fishes. In addition to studying about fishes, I also learned how to identify fish on the adult, juvenile, and larval level. I believe that identifying fish can be rewarding because it can get difficult trying find the intricate details to identify each fish at different stages of their lives. Also, being able to go out on the boat every week and seeing the natural scenery of both sample sites is something that the “Average Joe” doesn’t get to see every day. 

Being around other people that are passionate about science and love it as I do makes me feel at home. Coming to work and being able to sit in the lab to doing science every day is feeling that I cannot explain. I love every second of arriving to the Potomac Science Center and looking out the window to see that awesome view of the Potomac River. Furthermore, the people in the building are all friendly and are willing to help anyway they can. This might seem small but having key card access to your lab is so awesome! It makes you feel like you are entering in a TOP SECRET room, but it’s just your lab. 

All this fun and excitement comes with hard work as well. I have taken pride in my research and study and cannot wait to present my project findings at the poster presentation to show what I’ve been working on this entire summer. If I could give advice to future student researchers, it would be to apply to not only just OSCAR internships but to any internship. I guarantee that it will be an experience you will never forget. Our first week at PSC, Ben and I dissected a Remora AKA “Shark Sucker” in Dr. de Mutsert’s fish lab. In the mist of all this happiness and joy, the entire room smells like fish!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

STIP Student Taylor Day Performs Fitness Tests on Policemen and Firefighters

My name is Taylor Day and I am a senior at George Mason University, majoring in Athletic training. One day, one of my professors in my program came in and spoke about an opportunity to do research this summer on police and firefighters in Prince William County. To this day, that’s all I remembered before I knew I would apply. Eventually, I learned that I would be doing research working with a team in order to conduct a descriptive, cross-sectional analysis of health-related  quality of life (QoL), movement capabilities and fitness levels of police and firefighters in Prince William county. This opportunity, I felt was huge and paralleled right into my field of study and my future career goals. Additionally, I knew that this was a unique and interesting population to work with, knowing that there was little information and previous knowledge on firefighters and police. 

In this program, we meet once a week as a whole to discuss protocols, duties, weekly assignments, and scheduling. Throughout the week, we fitness test police and firefighters by appointment and then work on fitness reports and exercises programs catering to the police and firefighters needs and goals physically. The fitness report is a form that exemplifies the subject’s movement capabilities, scores them on the fitness test, and gives recommendations on what should be the focus based on their performance during testing. The exercise program is a six-week program focusing on six weeks of strength exercises, corrective exercises, and six weeks of conditioning. 

This project really taught me a lot and really broadened my horizon on health and fitness promotion as a whole. Furthermore, it provided me opportunities to learn new things outside of my realm of athletic training and practice skills outside of the classroom. My research definitely has an impact on not only me but the community.    

Saturday, December 14, 2019

STIP Student Quang Vo Focused on Developing Novel Mathematical Algorithms, Building a Web Application TATA

Hello! My name is Quang Vo, and I am a Computer Science major. My summer impact project for the Summer 2019 was focused on developing novel mathematical algorithms to solve biology problems, and building a web application named TATA (Transcription Factor Association Tool for Analysis) for those findings. The web app has an intuitive user interface that not only makes the input of biological data straightforward, but also produces output data in a simple form that can be easily understood by a non-science audience. 

On a weekly basis, I worked closely with Dr. Tyrus Berry, Dr. Luis Rodriguez, and Prof. Shanshan Cuito discuss the requirements for the web app, and I gained a great relationship with all of my mentors. Also, I was very fortunate to collaborate with other Biology, Math, Web Design, and Computer Science students that helped me improve my communication and teamwork skills. My long-term goal is to become a full stack developer, and TATAweb app was built using React.js(JavaScript, HTML, CSS) for front end, Plotly.js for graphing, and Django (Python) for back end. Therefore, I am very grateful for the opportunity to pursue this summer impact project with support from OSCAR, which is very beneficial for me to practice and become well-prepared for my future career after graduation. 

One thing I discovered this term is what a long-term project looks like in my field, and how often the project doesn’t go as planned. Even though there were numerous times I found the project frustrating, it became more rewardable when looking at the final outcomes. Every time I hit a roadblock, I needed to adapt and find an alternative way to solve the problem. I learned more about my own work habits, learned how to manage time and improve deadline management skills. I am forever grateful to OSCAR, my mentors, and everyone else who has supported me in this summer impact project.

Friday, December 13, 2019

STIP Student Phuong Tran Worked as a Full Stack Web Developer

My name is Phuong Tran, I am a sophomore in Computer Science with a major in Data Science. During the fall 2019 semester, I have been actively looking for internship and found OSCAR’s poster. I first got interested in this field because I has been picking up on Python as my first coding language. I have always dreamed of becoming a Data Analytic Engineering, I love working with analyzing data and creating databases. I get to work with both front end, back end technologies, and trying to sync the two.

During work days, I mostly merge math algorithm into existing back end server (Django REST framework) while in front end server, I implement design elements from HTML/CSS while giving them functionalities through React.js/JavaScript. I also deploy my code from local host (personal laptop) to the server (Apache) to make sure the app is up to date. In order to keep the work flow clean as well as reserved the code for next summer team, my team set up a git hub repository to store all the assets and codes with description on how to install and run the program (both back end and front end). 

For the internship I have learned a lot of new frameworks, how to tackle problems that I haven’t seen before, and the most important thing is my communication skill has enhanced a lot. The messages that I want to send to future students who will be continue on this project is that try get the local host server running correctly first before doing any implementations and it might be really helpful to read the comment we wrote.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

URSP Student Dylan McFarland Analyzes the Dynamic Socio-political Landscape in Central America

I had never thought about how I became interested in my own project until I saw my classmates present on their widely varying research and found myself thinking, “How in the world did they even come up with such a thing?” I have always been fascinated by other cultures different from my own. Studying Spanish as my second language exposed me to a deeper understanding of the Latin American region and the experiences of the people therein.

After participating in the Global Politics Fellowship at the Arlington campus I began to think more critically about democratization and political participation and civil society. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity to conduct an independent research project, the dynamic socio-political landscape in Central America seemed a perfect subject. I would like to continue this research in the future and this has led me to want to pursue a career in human rights advocacy work where I hope this project can be used as an example of my research experience and writing samples for grad school applications and job applications.

This project has added to my weekly routine a hefty amount of reading relevant literature on the subject. Some weeks I attend off-campus lectures at Latin America centric NGOs in DC (all weeks I am thinking about the formulation of my research and methodologies). I have discovered through this research deeper implications about “agency” and political action. Being so close to this project and never having become bored or frustrated with it has cemented within the realization that I have a real passion for it as well.

STIP Students Santiago Jauregui and Katherine Tran Examine Effects of Alcohol Packaging on Youth Through Eye Tracking

Like most of our fellow research assistants on the "Eye-Tracking for Alcohol Packaging Appeal" research team, we weren't quite sure what to expect in regards to our daily tasks and weekly objectives. Over the duration of the project, our team would meet on a weekly basis to discuss current challenges we were facing and delegate duties among ourselves, which could change or add on to the previous weeks' tasks depending on the project's current needs. Under the direction of our primary investigator, Dr. Matthew Rossheim, and Dr. Matthew Peterson we proceeded in two phases, the first phase was to prepare material for our experiment and recruit participants to undergo our study, and the second phase was collecting data via running test participants through eye-tracking technology. 

Throughout the month of July, most of our time was devoted to running test participants. Each participant required two research participants to oversee the experiment and handle any troubleshooting with the eye-tracking software. Upon arrival to our eye-tracking lab participants were greeted and went over their informed consent forms with the research assistants, before being tested by us for normal vision and color blindness. We were responsible for overseeing the experiment as participants ran through a programmed slideshow of images the team had developed, while an infrared eye tracking sensor monitored the movement of the participants' pupils, recording the location and time spent looking at objects in each image. All participant data was de-identified by us so that the participants remained anonymous with a three-digit code in addition to their age and gender were the only identifiers recorded. 

One thing we learned this summer was the crucial importance of voluntary participation in research efforts involving human subjects, and the resilience required to continue working diligently when research plans don’t always go as planned. Our team faced considerable challenges recruiting youth participants this summer and had to constantly revise our methods and procedures in order to collect a large enough data sample. Meeting our desired number of participants was extremely important to us as the results of our research would be used by our primary investigator to improve youth public health and safety through regulatory implications.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

URSP Student Liam Timmons Investigates Incumbency Advantage in City Council Elections

I researched the impact of demographic characteristics on incumbency advantage in Virginia’s city council elections. While local politics are a topic of great concern among my fellow Government and International Politics majors, these very important elections often get swept under the rug. In my hometown of Princeton, New Jersey, however, city council and school board elections are a big deal, with lots of campaigning and money involved. This seemed out of the ordinary, so I wanted to find out just how tough it is to win a city council election. After I found out that nationally, congressional representatives almost always win re-election if they want it, incumbency advantage seemed like a good place to start. 

On a weekly basis, my work usually consisted of data collection, writing and reviewing literature, and coding in R. City council election data is often spotty or non-existent, and I spent a lot of time in local newspaper archives trying to find incumbency status or election results. I also had to organize this data by hand, because the Virginia Department of Elections data was not formatted how I needed it. I read lots of literature on how to best estimate incumbency advantage, and all my coding and modelling was done in R. Because my R skills were a little rusty, I spent a lot of time day-to-day trying to figure out how to get my code to do what I wanted it to do. Overall, though, I felt the work I carried out day-to-day was valuable in many respects. 

Throughout this research, I’ve found the URSP program to be a valuable and enriching experience. I’ve had opportunities to share my research, learn more about the world around me, and contribute to scholarly research on issues that are important to me

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

STIP Student Sierra Strickler Researches the Impact of Sexual Assault

I was inspired to do this research project primarily because of the events surrounding Brett Kavanaugh and the #MeToo movement, as well as by the sexual harassment and violence that all women are familiar with in some way. Throughout my life, I have seen people I know to be affected by sexual assault; one particular friend of mine even had to drop out of college to escape her two attackers, was brave enough to take them to court, and then lost her case as well as all of her money. This friend, as well as too many other friends, strangers, and stories, all motivated me to be outspoken about the issues related to sexual assault and to join the Peer Advocate Program at George Mason's Student Support and Advocacy Center. There I have had the honor to work to promote positive change surrounding sexual assault, such as providing safe spaces for survivors to come forward and providing education about safe sex and consent to our students. When I saw the beginnings of the #MeToo movement, I was in awe of the bravery of the people who came forward to share their stories. Unfortunately, many were met with backlash and hatred, even from women. I couldn’t understand how any woman (or any person, really) could be against people speaking out against assault or be indifferent, even supportive of people who commit sexual assault.

This research also fits into my personal goals, as I want to delve deeper into research, go to graduate school, and earn a doctorate in psychology. I’m not sure what I want to focus on in the future, but this project has been incredibly interesting and gratifying. I’ve learned a lot from this research that I can apply to whatever I end up doing.

So far, most of my time has been spent doing literature reviews for various purposes: background knowledge, reasoning to help form hypotheses, and to find pre-existing measures to use. During this term, I discovered how difficult it can be to find certain literature even though you know that it’s out there. Experimenting with different keywords and search features is vital!

Monday, December 9, 2019

STIP Student Marie Tessier uses Immunohistochemistry to Measure Protein Expression for Conserving Genetics in Endangered Animals

I am a Biology major looking to veterinary medicine as my future career path. Many vet schools require research experience, so I jumped at the opportunity for a summer project with OSCAR. I found a mentor from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, where the National Zoo breeds endangered animals and performs research for conservation. My project is about in-vitro spermatogenesis, the production of sperm in a lab dish from testicular tissue. This could be very useful for endangered animals which die before reaching maturity or have fertility issues because it would allow them to still contribute their genetics to the population. However, in-vitro spermatogenesis has only been successful in mice and rats, so researchers at SC Blare working to produce sperm in the lab from lambs, as a model for endangered ungulate species. 

My main task was to measure protein expression using a staining technique called immunohistochemistry. This two-day procedure involved taking microscope slides with the tissue samples and soaking them in a number of treatment solution search timed for specific durations. After staining was complete on day 2, I looked at the slides under a light microscope to analyze the staining pattern. To obtain the sample slides, I had to section paraffin wax blocks containing the tissue pieces using a microtome. I was busy in the lab, but I had time to read scientific articles during waiting periods so I could learn more about my topic. 

One thing I discovered about research is that no matter what goes right or wrong in an experiment, there is always something to learn. One of my antibodies failed to work at all. However, my mentor used that opportunity to teach me about troubleshooting immunohistochemistry protocols. When I obtained positive results, I was able to understand the role of the protein in the cell and in spermatogenesis. Though my research part was small, I contributed to a much bigger picture for endangered animal conservation.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

STIP Student Susan Tarabulsi Studies the Approach of Multiple Methods for Problem-Solving in Calculus to Enhance a Students’ Learning

Since I was 15 years old, the beauty of mathematics has always captured my attention. I have only experienced mathematics education in a single rigorous way and I have always striven to educate myself and others by engaging in mathematics through different, novel methods. I have been inspired by Dr. Padmanabhan Seshaiyer’s approach to problem-solving as well as the connections that he drew between mathematics and the real world which have motivated this project. In most classrooms, students are often encouraged to solve a problem by a fixed step by step approach. Students usually end up memorizing the steps without really understanding the mathematical concept, and therefore, they forget what they had learned after they complete their exams. Because of the lack of conceptual learning, mathematics fails to excite many students, and the traditional pedagogy does not engage students to think creatively. Perhaps, this is why many students have decided not to pursue a career in the STEM field after taking a calculus course. Therefore, improving the quality of mathematics education has become my personal goal. 

This project allowed me to demonstrate that thinking outside of the box in calculus has a positive impact on student success. Through this project, I investigated traditional approaches used in teaching Calculus topics and provided alternate inquiry-based and technology-based approaches to understand the same topics. A second topic that I wanted to investigate is whether gender plays an important role in shaping how students respond to under performance in calculus given societal stereotypes about math competence.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

STIP Student Avaanti Sridhar Researches Human Trafficking for Film Project

Human trafficking is one of the biggest issues internationally throughout the world. While many initiatives, task forces, and movements have been implemented in order to put a stop to it, trafficking still exists. My career goal is to be a narrative filmmaker with a focus on creating stories that combat social injustices throughout society. My final project will be a short fiction film that tells a story about a human trafficking victim and the aftermath of their experience. The development and preproduction will be conducted in the Fall/Winter of 2019, then in the Spring of 2020, the actual film will go into production.

Before even thinking about telling a story, a person must conduct lots of background research and know as many facts about an issue as they can. This summer, I spent most of my time at the library, focusing on reading books and personal accounts about trafficking experiences. I conducted a lot of research on the demographics of trafficking, such as where it occurs the most and what groups of people are targeted primarily. This type of information helps with building a story. My long term goal of being a social change filmmaker will be strongly supported if my project goes well this next year. I am hoping that my film will be powerful, and can lead me to more opportunities within the film and entertainment industry. Film is a very powerful medium that people of all ages can enjoy. That is why it is very important for people to use this form of art to tell stories and create positive change in the world.

On a weekly basis, I go to the library and do research on databases where I take notes and record information that I read. One thing that I discovered this term is that there are always two sides to every story, and it is crucial to look at and talk about both in order to tell a powerful story.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

STIP Student Davesh Purohit Begins Steps toward Direct Analysis in a Real Time Mass Spectrometer (DART-MS) to Detect Parkinson’s from a Patient’s Stench or Body Fluids

Hi, my name is Davesh Purohit and I am a Neuroscience major researching on Parkinson’s disease with my mentor-John Schreifels. I first heard about this project from John Schreifels, I was intrigued by his motivation to help his sister—who has Parkinson disease—by creating an instrument that can quickly detect the presence of the disease. Since there was no clinical method to detect the disease, I clearly saw the need for a process to detect the disease as a pre-med student since millions of Americans are affected by it every year. John Schreifels was diving into a theory that involved the usage of a Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometer (DART-MS) to detect Parkinson’s from a patient’s stench or body fluids. So, when I decided to work with him on this research project, we purchased a DART-MS instrument and spearheaded the theory on our own. My goal for this research project was to become acclimated with the DART-MS by calibrating the instrument and conducting experiments to prove the instrument’s functionality. The DART-MS was designed to detect the molecular weight of any substance, so the goal for this instrument was to successfully detect the molecules that are responsible for creating a stench in a sample of Listerine mouthwash.

Throughout the semester, I communicated with my professor on a daily basis to order the right materials and assemble the DART-MS. Once the instrument was ordered and assembled, my weekly tasks would include calibrating the instrument, learning about the architecture, data processing, and software of the instrument. When the instrument was calibrated, I was successfully able to detect the molecules that were responsible for emitting a scent from the mouthwash. The next phase of our research is to apply this process to detect the stenches of apples, oranges, and stinkbugs for further verification of the instrument’s capabilities before we move onto trying to detect Parkinson’s disease in human trials. One thing I took away from this research project is the amount of help you can get from different companies, GMU faculty, and mentors if you simply ask for help. I would have never gotten this far in this research project if it weren’t for the assistance of my superiors. As I progress onwards with this research project, more questions will be asked than answers would be given; but I’m excited to see how this project will impact the scientific community in the future

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

STIP Student Freddy Lopez Assists in the Eye-tracking Research to Examine Alcohol Product Packaging's Appeal to Youth

 This summer, we were research assistants on the Summer Team Impact Project “Eye-tracking Research to Examine Alcohol Product Packaging’s Appeal to Youth” under Dr. Matthew Rossheim and Dr. Matthew Peterson. My partner –Erica Harp –and I focused on recruiting participants for the study throughout the summer. We targeted GMU summer camps for the 12-17-year-old age range and undergraduate and graduate summer classes for the 21-25-year-old age range. We sent emails out to professors and camp directors asking if we could recruit their students for our study.

Upon approval, we visited as many camps and classes to hand out flyers with information about the study and directions on how to participate. Although we managed to recruit a good number of participants, our recruitment efforts were hindered by a variety of obstacles. Some of this included lack of responses from professors and camp directors, accommodating 12-17-year old’s needs such as transportation and parental consent, and lack of attendance from participants who had signed up to take our study.

As someone who hopes to conduct my own research in the future, this study gave me a great insight into how one goes and conduct recruitment efforts for a study. Although this project is very different from the one I wish to conduct, I am grateful that I got to see the ups and downs of a research project. I learned that there will always be obstacles that may put one’s work behind schedule, but I also learned strategies on how to combat that. This research can also have great implications on policy development and it reminded me why I love research in the first place. Research is such a unique way in which you can find a solution to a problem you find interesting, and I hope to do this once it is my turn to conduct my own study.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

STIP Student Daniel Shookster Analyzes the Quality of Life, Movement Capabilities, and Fitness of Police Officers and Firefighters in Prince William County

This summer I worked on the public safety wellness and resiliency summer impact project. Over the summer I learned how to conduct a research project under the supervision of mentors who have conducted studies on similar populations and topics. This project focused on analyzing the quality of life, movement capabilities, and fitness of police officers and firefighters in Prince William County.

Each week subjects came to the SMART lab for fitness assessments and movement screening. Before fitness testing subjects filled out questionnaires that assessed their quality of life. Functional movement tests were done to assess asymmetries and overall movement quality. Fitness tests were done for all 5 components, muscular endurance, muscular strength, body composition, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness. After each subject completed their fitness assessment, we created a custom fitness program for them based on their personal goals, current fitness level, injury history, and any other necessary considerations. After receiving their program, it was cool to see how excited they got and to hear about their plans.

Being able to give back to those who protect and serve us felt good and gave me a new perspective on police and firefighters. Over the summer I gained skills and experience running tests in the SMART lab that I would not have had access to without the project. Being able to gain an understanding of how to conduct a study from start to finish, and laboratory experience are benefits I will take with me to graduate school.

Monday, December 2, 2019

STIP Student Jon Rossi Explores Translating Significant Biological Data through a Novel, Intuitive Graphical User Interface

Hi, I’m Jon Rossi and I am working on the STIP titled Translating Significant Biological Data through a Novel, Intuitive Graphical User Interface. The goal of this project is to develop a tool, useful to biologists, which allows one to find significant gene interactions. There are multiple different groups working alongside each other on this project. There is a graphic design team involved in the visual aspects of the project such as presenting the data and ensuring the interface is aesthetically pleasing while also being functional. There is a middleware team who works closely with everyone and handles the infrastructure of the project. Finally there is the backend team, which I am a part of, who works on processing the data. Doing so entails using statistical techniques and tools to process large amounts of gene information and isolate significant relationships. For instance, someone might be interested in comparing which genes are active in a sick person to those that are active in an unaffected person. Examining the differences in gene expression between various populations is a fruitful course but often presents issues with regard to both the size of the task and the subtleties involved. Due to the sheer volume of data that many of these samples contain, it can be very difficult to uncover any relationships that exist and novel methods have to be developed to approach this problem. 

I have a certain degree of interest in bioinformatics and in general how computers can be applied to scientific problems. As a result, when I saw the posting for this project, I eagerly applied. I think a project of this sort is a good way to learn new things as well as encounter interesting and previously unknown topics. In terms of my long-term goals, the techniques and skills developed while working on a project like this are certainly in high demand in industry, additionally being involved in the scientific applications of computing is a goal of my own. The work on this project also has required me to learn some new techniques and technologies that would otherwise be difficult to encounter in standard coursework which itself is valuable experience.

A typical week at work entails a lot of programming. In particular, implementing various statistical tools, or processing the data into manageable forms are typical activities for me. Oftentimes it requires familiarizing myself with some new tool, and a decent amount of time is devoted to simply testing and experimenting. Additionally, given the multiple teams on this project, there is always an element of conference with other groupmates where we try and integrate our work together. Throughout this project I have had the opportunity to learn about various techniques used for gene expression analysis, including the PCIT algorithm and differential wiring. I have also had the chance to learn about and apply some statistical learning techniques. Overall, this has been a very rich experience as the work itself and the related subjects are quite interesting.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

STIP Student Alexis Robbins Works with Machine Learning to Integrate Medical Applications with Computer Science

 What initially interested me about this project was the future implications to biomedical advancement. These cutting-edge computer science techniques, computer vision and machine learning, allow pattern recognition to be successful in problems that were previously too complex and contained to many variables. And the future medical applications of this, especially with systems as complex as the human body, are practically endless.

This project has given me a great amount of experience with coding and research that will be very useful in my future career. Specifically, learning data science research procedures in a biomedical setting was extremely valuable.

A typical workweek begins with a Monday morning group meeting discussing our successes and failures and how to improve our trajectory for the research and well as key ideas to explore. During the week we are mostly conducting in depth research and experimentation; this is mostly writing scripts, troubleshooting, organizing input data and possibly running neural network trials, comparing and analyzing results. The week concludes with a team meeting on Friday with our other partner research groups, Health Informatics and Nursing, along with all respective faculty mentors.

After looking back on the project, I realized that I discovered a passion for data science. I have begun to build an understanding of how powerful recent technology can be in solving problems that were previously unsolvable.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

STIP Student Sanjana Raghavan Approaches Experimental Literature through Creative Writing

Hello, my name is Sanjana Raghavan and I am an English major with a concentration in literature. Although I am an English major and I love reading and analyzing texts, my passion lies in creative writing. This research project started when I was working on a flash novella with my mentor, Professor Laura Scott, and she suggested trying a symbolic story line to tie in the gaps. I decided to write about the life of a fruit fly, and that was where this novella was born. The fruit fly pieces held a different urgency, and were formed from vivid, stark prose. Initially, I wanted to challenge myself to write a more experimental novella and solely focus on the life of a fruit fly. However, the lure of paralleling an unlikely human protagonist (a gay and Indian (South Asian) American woman) with the fruit fly soon drew me, and I was struck by the idea of a character who was confined by her body and skin in the same way a fruit fly is confined by its life cycle.

On a weekly basis, I either write, edit, research, or collaborate with my peers or my mentor to workshop and implement edits. The vast majority of my process is simply writing, editing, and repeating the cycle until I arrive at a publishable product.

In terms of my long-term goals, I plan on going for an MFA in creative writing. I will submit my finished novella to literary magazines and publishing agencies, and I may also use it as part of my portfolio for the MFA application. This project was extremely helpful because I do not normally work in longer forms, and my work is not usually this experimental. I feel much more confident approaching longer forms and challenging myself to try new things in my writing. I also found peers who were working on similar projects, and their edits were very useful.

Friday, November 29, 2019

STIP Student Ben Rhoades Studies the Levels of Plastic Pollution Present in the Potomac River

I can see plastic everywhere now– and not just the water bottles on the side of the trail or the plastic bags in branches, but the tab you pull off of a disposable squirt bottle and the tiny corner torn off of a granola bar. The most visually impactful part of this summer has been picking through fully processed microplastic samples as we work to quantify just how much plastic pollution is present in the Potomac River and the streams that feed into it.

 Microplastics are pieces of plastic, either fragmented or intentionally produced, that are between 5mm and 0.3mm in diameter and are the center of increased media and academic attention. My lab partner and I have spent this summer studying these small bits of plastic in local waterways hoping to build off of the work of Mason PhD student Doreen Peters and the published work of Yonkos et al. (2015) who reported on microplastic in the Chesapeake Bay. Despite the work of both scientists, no data has been published on the presence, abundance, or concentration of microplastics in the Potomac River. This is where Han and I enter the scene.

Most microplastics research focuses on those plastics found floating at the surface of aquatic environments using a buoyant net named after its look-alike a Manta Ray. Using one of these Manta nets housed at the Potomac Science center, we’ve sampled Hunting Creek in Alexandria, VA; Gunston Cove in Woodbridge, VA; and the Anacostia River in Washington, DC. However, we also have used a novel stream sampling approach that uses a round-mouthed net anchored to either side of a stream and left for an hour to passively collect microplastics. Our lab’s principle investigator, Dr. Foster, and I sampled Accotink Creek, Cameron Run, and the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River using our self-engineered technique. Finally, in an attempt to see if there is movement of microplastics into the food web, we extracted and analyzed the digestive tracts of four catfish.

Through this project, I hope to have some idea of an ideal sampling method that is representative of the who ecosystem a researcher is investigating, whether it is surface water sampling, sediment sampling, or fish-gut analysis. Also, am testing whether these sites differ in each of those sampling methods, and if so, what contributes to those differences. We have just finished our sample processing, which involved hours of drying samples, chemical digestion, picking at and counting plastics under a microscope, and finally I will have a chance to crunch our numbers and test these hypotheses.

 Looking back, I thought I would know what to expect with this summer: sampling, processing, analysis, etc, however, I’ve learned that each research experience is unique and rewarding in its own way. First of all, becoming familiar a with a completely new and ever-growing field of literature has been an exciting challenge. Also, working with old and new faces in the lab and in the field, I have learned that all PIs and lab partners are different and that relationships and expectations are always… plastic.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

STIP Student Sharif Qandour becomes Involved in Machine Learning and Convolutional Neural Networks

This research project presented itself to me with the potential to strengthening my Data Science and being able to dive myself further into academia and research before graduating. Before truly getting tangled in the research, I knew I would thoroughly enjoy learning about Machine Learning and Convolutional Neural Networks with its interdisciplinary utility. As this research focuses on using Computer Vision for image analysis of bruises, but fundamentally using feature detection can be executed on just about anything of interest.

With the long-term goals, I want to fortify my background in Computational Data Sciences with cutting edge machine learning techniques that will always be in my back pocket for Civil Engineering purposes. This isn’t replacing engineering work or design, only re-enforcing better techniques and computations. In terms of data fusion, this can be exceedingly supportive with decision making confidence especially when it is relying on data-founded understanding and prediction. Technology is going to ultimately make everybody’s life easier in the long run, and I would like to be part of the solution; if that is in the medical/health informatics field, Civil Engineering field, or any other.

The week begins with a Monday morning group meeting discussing our successes and failures and how to improve our trajectory for the research and well as key ideas to explore. During the week we are mostly conducting in depth research and experimentation; this is mostly writing scripts, troubleshooting, organizing input data and possibly running neural network trials, comparing and analyzing results. The week concludes with a team meeting on Friday with our other partner research groups, Health Informatics and Nursing, along with all respective faculty mentors discussing our goals and polishing our methodology. During my experience I was exploring the vast power of Convolutional Neural Networks to the benefit of the user. As a quick synopsis Convolutional Neural Networks is using a multitude of weighted equations to match many complicated features to a specific output. Not knowing how profoundly powerful different types of network architectures can be when placed in the right situation

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

STIP Student Humberto Portillo Webtool that Searches for Significant Differences within a Sample of Genes

I decided to get involved with this project because I thought it looked like a one of a kind opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up on. As an aspiring Graphic Designer, it can be fairly easy to find jobs or opportunities that offer the typical kind of experience a designer may have in mind, for example designing business or marketing collateral. All of which is useful but it’s very rare and difficult to find an opportunity quite like this project. I enjoy the fact that in my career I get to be a part of something like this, to work on projects that are so complex that it not only challenges me but also, in a way, humbles me by exposing how little I understand of certain subjects. Being in a position like that you must exercise your ability to work in a team and the great thing about that is the benefits of team work only multiply. You not only strengthen your skills but also your ability to work within the group, and you also learn how extremely valuable great team members are. All of this serves as preparation for the future endeavors that I can only hope will grow as I move forward in my career.

Our project was building an online webtool that would find significant differences within a sample of genes. Our team was comprised of three groups: Front-end design, middleware, and backend development. I was part of the design team and our team faced many challenges each week, most of which were at a scale of difficulty we had never faced before. The design team wast asked with the entire front-end design of the website, which meant we had to design all of the user interface and branding of the site. On top of the design portion we also had to code all of the pages we had designed. Our goal was to create a webtool that was intuitive, well designed, and most importantly actually functioned with the backend code. Although it was a great challenge, I feel we not only accomplished our goal but also surpassed it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

STIP Student Julija Pivo Explores the Narratives of Post–Cold War Lithuanian Immigrant Women

Hi! My name is Julija Pivo, and I am a rising senior in the Creative Writing program. I have been interested in the topic of Lithuanian immigrant narratives ever since I came to America myself, partly because I found that there were very few narratives written in English. The only one that I could find as a child was The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, which fails to even write a Lithuanian’s name correctly on the first page. Because of this, I wanted to reach out to other Lithuanian immigrants in my community and focus on the intersections between our experiences in order to tell a faithful narrative of our lives. My central focus was on women, and how their sense of family, community, and identity changed or shifted since they arrived to America. I hope to continue writing about Lithuanian narratives in the future, specifically with a focus on the crucial questions of identity and diversity. 

Most weeks were comprised of reaching out to Lithuanian women in my community, arranging interviews, and preparing questions to ask each one. Once those interviews were conducted, I took central ideas from each, focusing on the biggest differences and similarities, And on how they can be intertwined in the narrative I was creating. Then the rest of the time was spent outlining the novella as a whole, slowly piecing it all together bit by bit more details became clear.

I am truly grateful that OSCAR has allowed me to focus on my culture and heritage in a way that has helped me grow not only as a person, but also as a writer and researcher. I’ve been able to learn about the intersecting cultural beliefs that Lithuanians have, and how they view their connection to America. These have helped show me the importance of narratives in today’s global culture, as well as their importance in retaining a connection to our roots

Monday, November 25, 2019

STIP Student Gabby Patarinski Neurobiological Components of Cognitive Dissonance

Hi! My name is Gabby Patarinski and I’m a senior psychology major with a concentration in clinical psychology and a minor in neuroscience. This summer, I had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Sarah Fischer-Nowaczyk, the professor in charge of the lab I’ve been working for since my freshman year. Dr. Fischer invited me to be a part of implementing her pilot study on substance abuse, decision making, and functional connectivity networks within the brain. To connect another subject to the topic, I decided to include additional self-report surveys that asses disordered eating traits. Impulsivity and poor decision making is often implicated in certain eating disorder habits, and so we thought it would be interesting to discover connections on these topics. Through this, my project, “Understanding substance use in decision making: The connection to eating disorder traits” came about.

My interest in the broad topic of body image began in my freshman honors research methods class, where I explored the connections between anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder and raised questions about current and future diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition. After a summer of working closely with women coming out of the criminal justice system, many of whom suffered from addictions, my interest in the topic of addictions sparked. I’m thankful to have already been a part of one of Dr. Fischer’s labs that explored the neurobiological components of cognitive dissonance—this experience allowed me to become familiar with the ins-and-outs of being a research assistant and introduced me to Dr. Fischer, whom I later asked to become my honors psychology mentor for my senior thesis project.

Recruited subjects for the study are initially screened to ensure they meet criteria, they then complete a number of self-report questionnaires, have a resting-state functional MRI scan done, and participate in 10 days of ecological momentary assessment. It was fascinating to learn about MRI scanning. My experiences in research help me pave the way to hopefully get into a clinical psychology doctorate program. The future is daunting, as are the admission rates, but I’m thankful to OSCAR for helping me prepare for the future and have this summer project.