Monday, September 30, 2019

STIP Student Owen Conducts In-Depth Electrical Analysis of Hydropwer Micro-turbine to Charge Cell Phones

I started working on this project a little over a year and a half ago. My project began when I was approached by Dr. Jen about working on the project. This project has been enjoyable to research and now recently to construct. This project became very important to my long-term goals because it allowed me to experience what it is like to create something along side of other engineers. The project also has a vision of helping to provide a clean source of energy to other countries that are in need. That is important to me because as an engineer it is important to me to be able to create something positive for the world.

Each week is different with this project. I am the head of a small engineering team that meets weekly to discuss calculations needed for the project and ideas of how to advance it. Currently we have begun construction and each week we move forward with that. Once the meeting comes to a close I usually delegate work to different people then I figure out what I need to find during the week as well as help others with any questions. I also regularly meet with professors to check the work that has been done to ensure our project is not missing anything or is incorrect in any way. 

This all has allowed me to discover myself as a leader and as an engineer. It has also allowed me to discover what real world research is like because I have had to figure out mathematics that I have never done before, and I have had to learn about turbines which I knew little about coming into the project. Studying other people’s designs and learning how to calculate things and create a design of my own using real world resources truly made me realize how fun engineering can be.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

STIP Student Will Barnett Focuses on Programming a System that Detects Large Ejections from the Sunusing Images Studying Solar Radii

My name is Will Barnett and I am a senior physics major with a concentration in astrophysics. I have spent this summer of 2019 performing research as a part of the URSP program. The focus of my research has been the development of a program that can automatically detect large ejections from the Sunusing images from a telescope that can see up to a distance of 30 solar radii. The detections are marked on the processed images and are then uploaded online.

This project was my first experience conducting research, and I have to say that it was much less intimidating than I expected. The other people in the Space Weather Lab, where I did my research, are very friendly and relaxed. This calm and supportive environment was perfect for my research, as I spent my time programming and would frequently ask for assistance from those around me. My mentor, Dr. Jie Zhang, was certainly extremely helpful in this way. Several times throughout the summer I would be stuck after working on the same issue for a week, but after just a few hours of Dr. Zhang’s assistance I would be able to move on to the next step in the process of my research.

My experience conducting research this summer has been incredibly beneficial to me. The freedom and opportunities to thrive that were provided to me during this project has shown me what I want out of a future career. I desire an occupation that allows me to pursue solutions to problems with a large amount of freedom during the problem-solving process. I strongly commend George Mason University and OSCAR for this fantastic program that has helped introduce me to the professional world. I very much hope that the rest of my career contains many more experiences like this.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

SITP Student Francis Akenkora works on Fusing OpenROV for Subsea Infrastructure Assessment.

I can still recall the day I became interested in this project. One of my friends came to me informing me that his professor was interested in adding additional undergraduate students into his lab with the purpose of fusing an OpenROV for subsea infrastructure assessment. I immediately became interested in when Dr. Zhang told us he wanted to see if it would be possible to leverage the OpenROV to use object detection methods based on machine learning. I’ve dealt with problems regarding detection and estimation throughout my academic career as an EE in both the classroom and through my capstone project, but neither allowed me to explore some of the hot button topics within the field. Using some of the fancy new ultra-fast detection methods such as YOLO (You Only Look Once) and SSD (Single-shot Detection) have convinced me that machine learning works! While machine learning does in fact work, it’s not to say that it is without hiccups. One thing I learned is that like humans, machines need a lot of exposure in order to learn. Trying to train a neural network can be hard especially if there aren’t any publicly available data sets (or any data sets for that matter) regarding what you’d like your network to be able to detect.

On a weekly basis, I would say most of my time is spent reading. I knew that there was a lot of information I needed to understand before I could truly appreciate the research I was conducting, but I didn’t anticipate there to be this much reading! For just about every problem I could’ve asked myself, there was thankfully a research paper that managed to answer that question, even if it wasn’t directly related to my research. Borrowing ideas from others has been an eye-opening experience to the wealth of knowledge that is readily available.

One thing this project has taught me is that I really do love soling problems and finding more problems to solve. I hope to pursue a career that manages to blend the interests I’ve acquired throughout my academic career. I love SONAR and I love image processing as well, so I hope to pursue a career where I can develop systems that use SONAR to generate images. If I do decide to pursue a graduate degree, this is the field I would become heavily interested in. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

USTF Student Ruth Tallman Jasperse Presents her Research at Computers and Writing hosted by Michigan State University

Ruth Jasperse was thrilled to take her analysis of the Super Seducer game series to Computers and Writing, hosted this year at Michigan State University. Computers and writing hosts a thriving interdisciplinary academic group focused on digital rhetoric, composition, and pedagogy, in which Jasperse’s psychologically framed rhetorical analysis of digital media fit into the larger academic discussion.

Despite being an undergraduate she was welcomed to the Graduate Research Network workshop at the beginning of the conference to roundtable her research with other students and advising professors. 

Knowing of the silent auction held each year to raise money for graduate travel funding Jasperse also made and donated a quilt featuring the conference tee of the previous year with a winning bid of $250 for the fundraiser.
Jasperse feels she had an excellent experience of intellectual exchange and learning, being exposed to so many wonderful projects, and receiving invaluable feedback on her own research. New connections and opportunities for collaboration have been forged and she is tremendously grateful to have been welcomed into this academic community and for their encouragement of taking the next steps in expanding her analysis. Jasperse thanks OSCAR, Dr. Beth Caravella and Dr. Leah Adams for their contributions with which this experience would not have been possible

Companion website for the poster at - likely best matched with “her analysis of the Super Seducer game series.

Monday, September 23, 2019

STIP Student Hannah Lewis Studies how Ecology and Entomology can be used to Support Forensic Evidence

What originally got me interested in this project were ideologies and methods of approach similar to the TV series Crime Scene Investigation (CSI). I was 12 years old and found his use of insects to help solve crimes fascinating. While growing up on a cattle farm, I was always around insects in nature and in how the tiny creatures could flourish on nearly every continent of this planet. This project is related to my long-term goals by providing me an opportunity to use the scientific method with a more tangible subject than what I am normally used to as a Psychology major. Honestly, the project has allowed me to realize how much I enjoy working with science within nature. In addition, it has allowed me to meet and work with great mentors and researchers that have provided priceless insight for my future.
What I do on a weekly basis- depending on the week includes running experiments, collecting samples, sitting at a microscope classifying insects, and recording data. There is also a great deal of research needed to become more familiar with identifying traits of each taxon of insects. Most of the time is spent at the microscope identifying insects though. This term I discovered more about how ecology and entomology can be used to support forensic evidence. I also discovered a whole new outlook on insect communities within our everyday lives. My skills using the scientific method have been sharpened and my interest in ecology has been encouraged.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

USTF Student Liam Timmons Attends the 2019 State Politics and Policy Conference

My experience at the 2019 State Politics and Policy Conference was valuable and enriching. I was able to speak to leading scholars in an emerging area of political science, state and local politics. This is a field that is rapidly growing in prominence, so it was fascinating to see all the cutting-edge research being done. In addition, although it is rare to present at this conference as an undergraduate, I felt entirely supported throughout the whole process, not only by Professor McGrath who helped me immensely on this project but everyone I spoke to at the conference. The feedback I received from my panel discussant has been valuable in helping me improve my work for a poster session at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting in addition to eventual manuscript preparation. I was also able to hone my presenting skills through sitting in on panels and poster sessions. Overall, my experience at SPPC 2019 was worthwhile and rewarding.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

USTF Student Yuina Waugh Performs at Carnegie Hall in New York City

Any musician can tell you that the prospect of performing at the legendary venue of Carnegie Hall in New York is something they can only dream of. I, along with some peers in the University Chorale, had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so under Dr. Lisa Billingham this past May. The opportunity was first presented to us during the Fall 2018 semester, and over the next few months, we rehearsed our piece – Requiem for the Living by Dan Forrest. We held a concert to present the piece to our local friends here at Mason one week before the Carnegie performance, and had great reception. That following Friday, we set out for New York. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings were dedicated to the full-choir rehearsals of the combined choirs of the University Chorale, Sullivan County Community Chorus, and Morris Knolls High School Chorale, for a grand total of almost 150 vocalists. On Tuesday afternoon, we had the dress rehearsal and had the chance to step onto the stage in the Stern Auditorium for the first time. That evening, we had our performance, starting at 8 PM. Our choir was the first of the three performances scheduled for the night, and we absolutely nailed it. I remember being overwhelmed by many different emotions as we stepped off the stage, as were many others; some with tears, some with a grin from ear to ear, you name it. After the performance, we had the opportunity to go on a dinner cruise down the Hudson, and we got to see many sights from the river, including Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Overall, the trip was filled with lots of fun, hard work, exploration, and excitement, and I hope to do something like this again in the near future.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

USTF Student Carl Roy Presents Research in Buenos Aires at the 64th Annual International Linguistics Association Conference

The research Dr. Serigos and I presented at the 64th Annual International Linguistics Association Conference in Buenos Aires focused on the opinions in Argentine media towards the use of Anglicisms in Spanish. Anglicisms are defined as words or expressions that are either directly taken and used in another language (i.e. software, marketing) or that are derived into other words or expressions (i.e. políticamente correcto, estrés), and are commonly read and heard throughout the country. It has been very trendy within the last decade to use English to advertise a store or product or for people to use political terms, like “déficit,” when discussing the news. Dr. Serigos and I examined the country’s two largest newspapers for articles about Anglicisms and classified the opinion(s) as positive, negative, neutral, divided, complex, or NA. The NA group, those articles in which “Anglicism” appears as a passing reference, was the most common. Out of the articles that did express an opinion, however, most were negative, as they expressed fears that Spanish is changing for the worst. The research we completed provides quantitative evidence necessary to understand how changes in language as a result of globalization are perceived.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

USTF Student Freddy Lopez Presents his Research at the NASPA Conference and Symposium

Attending NASPA’s Region II and Region III Conference & Symposium allowed me to see research on a professional setting for the first time. As someone who is interested in academia, I was able to get a first-look into how a career in academia would look like outside of the classroom. This was also my first-time presenting research outside of Mason and it was quite a thrilling experience as I was able to network with professionals. I was actually able to see how research could be used to inform others on certain issues and to offer possible solutions with the research that you create. I thank OSCAR and my mentor for allowing me the chance to attend. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

URSP Student Dang Nguyen Examines a Frequency-modulated Contious Wave Radar through Data Analysis and Collection

My team was assigned to examine the wireless sensor named Frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) radar. Compared to other kind of sensors from other teams such as Camera-based sensor or Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensor, I can see the huge potential of wireless sensor in the future when it comes to body movements recognition and translation, especially in term of privacy.  The most exciting, yet challenging, part is that a version of FMCW sensor that my team examined was developed just a few years ago, which means only a few studies has conducted. After this summer research, I hope my team’s contributions helps others have a better understanding of this sensor.

MachineLearning is one of the most interesting fields to be in right now for computer science majors. However, this technology requires a decent background in Python and critical thinking. Be being involved in this research, I have learned how to solve a complex problem by diving it into smaller chunk of tasks. Additionally, I have learned how to work as a team, communicate with each other on a daily basis, and explain personal ideas eloquently. 

In the morning, most of the time, we collected data. After lunch, we met with our mentors to discuss how everything is going and what are the next steps need to be done for the rest of the week. When I got home, I usually wrote everything my team did on that day to the website and came up with the plan for the next day. 

Getting involved in a research first time is a unique experience. Being a researcher requires determination, passion, and self-discipline. Every so often, researchers have to focus on the ultimate goals in order to get motivated. An experimental result that is considered right today might prove to be wrong tomorrow. Researchers are those who pioneer to dig deeper into the problem every day in order to either consolidate the knowledge or get closer to yet-to-be-known understanding.

USTF Student Yenifer Castro Presents Research at the 31st Annual Association for Psychological Sciences

I recently attended the 31st Annual Association for Psychological Sciences (APS) Convention in Washington D.C. My passion for positive psychology and involvement in Dr. Short’s research lab lead me to become an APS poster presenter. The experience was eye-opening and a great opportunity for me as an undergraduate. I was able to learn about tools for analyzing psychological data through a workshop. Attending poster presentation sessions also opened my interests and stimulated new ideas.

The poster I presented at APS is titled Gratitude, Stress Mindset, and Self-Rated Health in College Students. This study examined whether 104 college students’ self-reports of gratitude and stress as enhancing mindsets were related to their self-rated health. We also assessed the relationship of gratitude to self-rated health for college students over one month. All participants completed a Stress Mindset Measure, Gratitude Questionnaire, and a single self-rated health question. College students’ reports of self-rated health correlated .26 with stress mindset and .19 with gratitude at time 1. Stress mindset was uncorrelated with gratitude. Stress mindset and gratitude were significant predictors of self-rated health in regression analyses. The regression showed that the predictors accounted for 10.4% of the variance in self-rated health (F=5.728, p<.001). Stress mindset (B=.263, t=2.768, p<.01) was a significant predictor of self-rated health and gratitude was nearly significant (B=.186, t=1.951, p=.054) cross-sectionally. After controlling for initial self-rated health scores, the predictors explained 4.1% of the change in self-rated health scores (F change=5.157, p<.01). Gratitude emerged as a unique predictor of the change in self-rated health over time (B=.187, t=2.911, p<.01) after controlling for initial self-rated health scores. The results suggest the value of interventions to increase students’ gratitude and stress is enhancing mindsets to help increase self-rated health.

Friday, September 6, 2019

USTF Student Alexander Steadman Performs with his Choir at Carnegie in New York City

My name is Alexander Steadman. I recently had the amazing opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City behind the conducting of Dr. Lisa Billingham, where I sang the Requiem for the Living, by the contemporary composer Dan Forrest. I was blessed to sing on a stage previously graced by the likes of Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra (who are deeply inspirational to me, a jazz studies major who sings jazz), and other famous and influential musicians like the Beatles. It is a great honor to be able to say I have also performed at this stage, and I will always remember this wonderful chance I was given. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

USTF Student Jesse Wong Presents Research at the Society of Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting 2019

I recently had the opportunity to present a long-term research project that Dr. Changwoo Ahn's lab has been working on for the past seven years at the Society for Wetland Scientists on June 29th-31st. During my time at the conference, I had the opportunity to overhear several different symposiums examining the various ways scientists and environmental businesses integrate science and technology in preserving wetland ecosystems. I also had the opportunity to connect with professionals and graduate students across the world ranging from here at home with researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to scientists presenting their projects all the way from China and Nigeria! At the end of the day, I had the chance to talk about the research that I have conducted with other folks in Dr. Ahn's lab examining how wetland ecosystems are affected by planting diversity and nutrient enrichment. It was both interesting and humbling to talk about our research as scientists both appreciated the work that the has done as well as asked some of us very difficult questions that none of us knew the answer to. One of the moments that stood out was when one scientist came up to our poster and started to ask about the infrastructure behind the wetland with the desire to replicate it in her lab in the North. It showed me how special this long-term project is and what potential it could bring to the scientific community. Overall, the experience was extremely rewarding with the connections that I have made and very inspiring to hear about what we as a scientific community are doing to preserve our wetlands.