Wednesday, October 30, 2019

STIP Student Preston Hudgins Improves the Health and Fitness of Firefighters in Prince William COunty

Hello, my name is Preston Hudgins and I am currently a Kinesiology major. My research project initially interested me because I have a great respect for first responders, as they are not appreciated enough for the job that they perform. Another thing that interested me about the project was to work with the faculty that were in charge of the program. I could see myself working with first responders in the future, as the level of fitness in this population is very low and needs to be improved upon. On a weekly basis, I would have meetings with the entire project group where we would discuss exercise programming, research for our project, and corrective exercises. After the meeting, we would have our weekly fitness testing appointments. We tested the participants in a number of tests, including a movement screen, quality of life survey, anthropometric measures, and fitness tests. After all of the appointments have finished, I had to write a fitness report for each participant. Based on the fitness report, I would then write an exercise program for each subject and send it to my mentor for proofreading. On top of that, I had to research fitness in firefighters and craft a synthesis matrix full of sources. During this term, I discovered many things. Among those was how to effectively exercise program, and how to run certain fitness tests, how to write a synthesis matrix, how to craft an effective research poster, and how to write a fitness report. This project has been very beneficial to me and has taught me many things along the way. I would like to thank OSCAR for the wonderful opportunity this summer!

Monday, October 28, 2019

STIP Student Yuanqi Du Explores Novel Wireless Sensor to Recognize American Sign Language

Hi, my name is Yuanqi Du, an international student majoring in computer science and joined the 2019 summer impact project. Our topic was American Sign Language (ASL) Recognition. Actually, this was not my first time to get involved in a research project, I’ve been working with one professor on a data mining related project prior to it. And I really enjoyed analyzing data. The most interesting part of this project was that we would use a novel wireless sensor to recognize ASL including the whole process of data collection and data analysis. There was only limited work had been done using the wireless sensor which meant that we would explore a new and specific way to collect, process and analyze the data. Though it was challenging, it was really intriguing. Also, the project would help bridge the gap between ASL users and non-ASL users.
With regard to my long-term goals, I am planning to pursue a PhD degree after this project because I found I really enjoyed the process of research and I learned a lot from my mentors by colloquiums. I learned what different research community was working on and how they tackled their problems. It was really attractive for me to continue doing research in my future life. And I start dreaming to be a professor who can share knowledge, experiences with others and contribute to the human’s development. We always made our weekly plan and stage plan during the summer. We had meetings with our mentors regularly (about three times a week), and we also had meeting within group every day. We shared our new findings, discussed about challenges and made new plans together.
If I am asked that the one thing I discovered during the project, I would say that it is exploring. Even before the project started, I’ve been thinking that what the data would look like, what challenge we would face and how we were going to tackle them. However, things looked so different from what I’ve imagined. I’ve been confused, lost, frustrated at that time. But I felt more motivated because I like to solve problems. When we met a problem, we would make a brainstorming to make proposals. And then, we tried the proposed solutions, it did not work, we analyzed the reasons of failure and we tried a new one, keep going and going. And eventually, we found the solution that worked. Personally, I really like the way of exploring things like this. Our mentors were more experienced than us, but they also did not know the real answer of our research questions. It was like we were not just an assistant, we were like co-workers who were exploring the world together. So, the one thing that I discovered in this journey was Exploration.

Friday, October 25, 2019

STIP Student Jae-Moon Hwang Assists in Translating Significant Biological Data through a Novel, Intuitive Graphical User Interface

Hello! My name is Jae-Moon Hwang, and I am a Computer Science major. Over the summer, I worked in one of the team’s part of the Summer Team Impact Projects. The project I was in, “Translating Significant Biological Data through a Novel, Intuitive Graphical User Interface”, was tasked to create a website. The goal of the website is to analyze biological data while also helping the user interpret and visualize the results.

I am part of the back-end team of the project, which helps develop the algorithms to do the actual analysis of the data. I am not really interested in Biology, but the technical aspect of the project seemed interesting and a great chance to learn more technological skills. Going into the first week, I had a general idea of what the work was going to be like, but only a very general idea. Fortunately, the project had a clear goal, and I found a good work “stride” by the end of my first week working. I have limited knowledge of the field of biology, but the technical challenges that pop up from analyzing data and building websites is something I can easily contribute towards. There is more so a typical work cycle rather than a typical work day or week. A good amount of time is spent talking and planning about what an algorithm should do and how to do it. Only after a good amount of planning, the code is then written up. The biggest time sink is then testing the code, fixing bugs, and then integrating the code with the front end so that the results can be shown on the website. The cycle then repeats if a task is done or if there needs to be modifications to the whole task as most likely some part of the task was more complex than expected.

This project was a great experience for me. It helped give experience in bridging the gap of what I have learned as a Computer Science major and other fields that are increasingly becoming reliant on technology. The problems I had to solve while coding, testing, and planning were interesting, and it was not simply easy grunt work. The most interesting part is learning how to manage the data that we have and solving the problems that come with the large amounts of data that has to be processed. The experience was invaluable, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time working in this project.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

STIP Student Haneen Hafiz Assists with VO2 Max and Resting Metabolic Rate Testing

My name is Haneen Hafiz and I am n athletic training major with a minor in kinesiology. I was drawn to the Public Safety Wellness and Resiliency Summer Impact Team Project because I was interested in learning about movement and fitness testing and analyzing data. I also wanted to get more out of my minor by challenging myself through this research on how to build strength and conditioning programs for police officers and firefighters. This research project over the summer has helped me with my long-term goals by exposing me to collection of data points, analyzing data, and creation of reports and protocols. As a future athletic trainer, I will constantly interact with others and the program has taught me better communication skills through conducting assessments on many subjects. The knowledge I have gained through this experience will help me with identifying body compensations during movement and building exercise programs for future patients.

On a weekly basis, I attend meetings, work for lab services, conduct fitness testing, build reports and programs, and schedule subjects for their testing. For lab services, I work in the S.M.A.R.T. Lab in the freedom center on the GMU Manassas campus, and I assist with VO2 Max and Resting Metabolic Rate testing. During baseline and fitness testing, we take subjects anthropocentric measures, check for movement compensations, and test their overall fitness capabilities. Using the information from testing, we build a program with corrective exercises, strengthening, and conditioning workout plan.

From this research, I have discovered that collecting data can be tedious, however, using the data to formulate programs can be a challenge. Each subject has a different body type with their own goals that they want to reach, and it’s our job to make a program that suits them. This summer has showed me and made me understand the extent of people’s research and why it takes long periods of time to get the results people are looking for.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

STIP Student Hadley Graham Involed in Summer Impact Public Safety Fitness and Wellness Resiliency Project

         My father has worked with the department of justice for 20+ years, so he has worked regularly with police officers. As soon as my Kinesiology professor had announced an opportunity to work with public safety officers, it immediately sparked my interest. My father has conveyed to me other the years what law enforcement tasks entail-long work hours, both physical and sedentary work-related demands, and responding to highly stressful situations with carrying heavy equipment. As a kinesiology major and former psychology and public health major, I am extremely interested in not only how human movement affects our health, but also how our environment, occupations, and behavior can impact our mental and physical health. My long-term goal is to become a physical therapist working with populations who have limited movement whether it be due to medical circumstances, such as a chronic or acute illness, or an unfortunate injury. A physical therapist’s job is to improve people’s quality of life through movement. I believe that exercise is the best ‘medicine’ that can help someone restore functionality in order to live a high-quality life. As I’ve studied Prince William County public safety officers through this project, I’ve gained a better understanding of how their lifestyles can relate to their movement, fitness and health dysfunctions and where in the health and occupational field we have some gaps and needs for intervention or more research.

          On a weekly basis, I attend team meetings with my fellow student peers and mentors, where we discuss collaboratively about our research topic and with our research protocol. I learned how to properly review literature on police fitness and quality of life, as well as how to develop a clear and concise research question based on past literature. I also test 3-5 public safety officers in the GMU SMART Lab on the Manassas campus. On each of our subjects I help run a body composition test, a functional movement screen indicating any movement dysfunctions, and other various tests that assess their muscular strength, endurance, power and cardiovascular fitness. After each testing protocol is complete, I write a fitness test report with the subject’s results compared to the normative data. I work either independently or collaboratively with other Kinesiology and athletic training students to write an exercise program for that individual public safety officer  During this project, I have realized not only how much of environments and occupation directly affect our health, but that being able to come up with a clear and concise research question is the foundation of any research study. Learning from past literature and making research decisions based on what is both known and unknown is the most intriguing thing to me about research.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

STIP Students Amar Gandhi and Aanchal Mathur Research Image Convertion and Configuring XNAT

What got you interested in this project?
Aanchal: When I was looking for summer internships on Handshake I came across the multiple projects for Mason Impact and from that listing, this internship stood out to me because it combined disciplines I was interested in, including engineering, health, and technology so I decided to apply. I also had some experience with bioinformatics in high school so this seemed like a good opportunity for me to expand my knowledge in that field.
Amar: The fact that I was qualified for this project, as in it asked for students who completed health informatics-related courses & I’ve taken most of those already. This was an internship in my field (health informatics) & was specifically looking for undergraduate students, so I thought I would learn a lot of relevant things in my field by doing it. I wasn’t familiar with PACS and DICOM systems, but it was something that interested me & I felt I could learn something new if I applied for this internship.

How do you see it being related to your long-term goals?
Aanchal: In the future, I plan to get a graduate degree but I am still thinking about what I would like to pursue. This internship was a great opportunity for me to get to work in something that wasn’t in my major but a subject that I was still very much interested in. It gave me exposure and experience in a variety of different skills and topics that aren’t in my curriculum.
Amar: This internship is a good stepping stone for me to more research work, internships, & jobs in the health informatics field. I can take the soft skills I learned (teamwork, communication, patience, & attention-to-detail), and the technical skills (using Linux & other research skills I learned) & use them in future internships and jobs.

What do you do on a weekly basis?
Both: A typical week for us usually consists of meeting with Dr. Wojtusiak on Monday morning to go over the plan and help us refocus for the week. For the rest of the week we divide the work amongst ourselves to be as efficient as possible in order to hit our goals for the week. For example, Amar will be working on researching different ways to convert images from RAW to DICOM while Aanchal would be working on further configuring XNAT. At the end of the week, we meet with the engineering and nursing students along with all of our mentors to share our progress and consult the rest of the team if we have any questions.

What is one thing you discovered this term? 

Anachal: Over the course of this internship we have faced many challenges that have felt like dead-ends in our project, but one thing I discovered from doing this type of research is that patience is key and you have to wait before you give up on something.

Amar: I discovered just how important good teamwork, communication, & cooperation can be to successfully complete a team project.

Friday, October 18, 2019

STIP Student Giovanni Flores Researches Antibiotics with Chemistry using a Spectrofluorometer

What got you interested in this project?

I fell in love with chemistry my junior year of college. With that being said I never considered research an option for me. It wasn’t until my old organic chemistry lab professor Carol Ajjan reached out to me to help with her own research that I saw myself doing anything chemistry related. Once I started helping her, I got really sucked into the project and I wanted to start doing some experimenting on my own. I talked to her and Dr. Abul Hussam, and they motivated me to pursue my own research and to do it through OSCAR.

How do you see it being related to your long-term goals?

Lab work is definitely something that I need more experience in. This opportunity was a great way for me to be introduced to this type of work and to make me comfortable working with professionals. I am studying to be a dentist. Not only has my summer research allowed me to work more with my hands but I also see it as a good way to help me stand out when applying for dental school.

What do you actually do on a weekly basis?

I went into the lab about three days out of the week. I spent anywhere from 4-7 hours in lab per day. In lab I would measure out different reagents and create the solutions needed for the day. I got familiar with using a spectrofluorometer and controlling a computer which had the program we used to perform our experiment. When I was not in lab, I was doing my own research to learn more of the theory behind what I was actually doing. While I definitely stayed busy this summer, I thoroughly my enjoyed summer research.

What is one thing you discovered this term?

Apart from my own discoveries about the way antibiotics behave and react when in different conditions, I learned what it was like to perform my own work, write my own findings and to really take pride in what I have accomplished. There was a lot of work behind this poster I just created, when I sit back and reflect on it, I remember how exciting and fun the whole experience was.

Monday, October 14, 2019

STIP Student Allison Dockum Works on Sign Language Recognition Software

At George Mason I study bioengineering and have a passion for designing assistive technologies. I saw the application for this project posted on Handshake and was eager to apply for the position. The goal of this project is to help develop a technology for sign language recognition, where sign language users would be able to interact with personal assistants, which currently only respond to vocal commands.

Prior to joining the team, I was already familiar with the inertial measurement unit data that the project would collect for the software. Inertial measurement units are sensors which are present in a lot of smart technologies today, which is why we use the Google Pixel to collect the data. Most days I work with my team to process and sort the data into machine learning classifiers. Before the start of this project, I did not have any machine learning experience and was unaware of the behind-the-scenes algorithms that are applied to raw data before analyzing and interpretation can occur. From this project I have learned a lot about data processing and machine learning, but also how to communicate effectively within a team setting to accomplish research goals.

As I continue my undergraduate degree and my professional career, I believe that the team work and communication skills will be applicable in many future endeavors, and the technical skills have given me a solid foundation for further knowledge and learning

Sunday, October 13, 2019

STIP Student Cameron Dow becomes Involved in Ecological Restoration with the Herbicide Protection Pod

I became interested in the topic of ecological restoration through personal experiences in my life. Growing up in a town just over an hour away from D.C. I have seen my community transform from a rural setting to a commuter town. With this change has come rapid development and the green spaces I knew and loved growing up have steadily been turned into new houses, restaurants, and shopping centers. This has inspired me to investigate how these lands can be restored to their former glory. In America, grasslands are one of the most threatened ecosystems out there. Because of this, I began reading literature specifically about grassland restoration techniques and found a relatively new method being researched, the herbicide protection pod (HPP). 

The HPP was developed to protect desired grass seeds from herbicide so grasslands can be reseeded and treated with herbicide simultaneously, a method that could not be done in the past. The herbicide must be sprayed to combat invasive grass species which out-compete the native seedlings and dominate the ecosystem, decreasing biodiversity and chance for wildfires. My research expanded on the previous work which focused exclusively on grass seed and asked the question, can the HPP be applied to other plant groups like wildflowers, without negatively effecting seedling growth? If the answer was yes, the HPP could potentially be used in other ecosystems where invasive species were out competing the natives. To test the effects on wildflower seedlings, I planted several replicates of bare seed and several replicates of seed incorporated in the HPP. My daily tasks were simply to water the seeds several times a day, and make sure no other factors could be confounding the effect of the HPP. Over the course of this project I learned that a lot of things can and will go wrong and you must always be paying attention, and willing to be persistent.

I also learned how hugely important initial study design is. Knowing what I know now, I would have changed several things to make my results easier to interpret and analyze. Overall, I’m proud of what I accomplished and will take what I learned forward with me as I aim to find a career in ecological restoration research

Friday, October 11, 2019

STIP Student Sophia DelGaudio investigates connection between Forensics and Ecology

 During the summer term of 2019, I was part of a Summer Team Impact Project through OSCAR that researched the connection between ecology and forensic entomology. Being a forensic science major, this project interested me because of how different environmental factors, such as weather or carcass size, can affect the calculation of the post-mortem interval(PMI). In forensic science, the PMI is used to report to investigators the time of death (TOD) of the victim. This project specifically investigated how different cadaver sizes affected the carcass in a number of aspects, from phase succession to carrion community composition. This practice allowed me to develop a strong understanding of how a forensic entomologist is a vital component to any criminal investigation. This relates to my long-term goals of wanting to be employed by a state or federal level forensic science lab, not only through what I learned specific to this project, but I was able to gain the knowledge of what it takes to work in a research lab. 

For this project, my team’s day-to-day work consisted of categorizing and counting samples of carrion insects that we collected from a week of field research. Our lab processed over 300 samples, each consisting of hundreds, if not thousands, of carrion insects, many of which we took down to the species level. Through this data, I learned how many different aspects of PMI calculation can be affected by aspects of carcass size. This project as a whole also allowed me to discover how many different questions can be developed and investigated from one research project.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

STIP Student Dastan Delarmen Mimics the Extracellular Matrix using Hydrogels.

I have always had a keen interest in cancer biology and truly enjoy learning about different topics in it. I have worked on different research projects on breast cancer and ovarian cancer during my high school and undergraduate, which further fueled my interest. I am a Biology major with a minor in Bioengineering. My goal is to integrate my Biology background with engineering aspects to do further research on cancer treatments. 

In my weekly basis, I worked on making mimics of the extracellular matrix using hydrogels in the lab and every so often interviewed professionals in the cancer treatment field. Working in the lab has allowed me to use different techniques and knowledge on how to synthesize the hydrogels as well as learn from each trial and error during my experiments. I also gained a lot of crucial information by meeting with oncologists, surgeons and nurse practitioners. Interviews conducted with professionals determined the issues with current cancer treatments and limitations on nanotechnology-based drug delivery system. 

I’ve enjoyed every moment that I worked on this project. My mentors have very supportive and helped me throughout this project. I have discovered much knowledge by working in the lab and interviewing professionals. I got fascinated by how Bioengineers could play a crucial role in developing materials and devices which aid in cancer research. I plan on continuing this research further in the future and hopefully, we would be able to make a difference by bringing a new beneficial method in cancer treatment.   

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

STIP Student Ariana Havens Combines the Deaf and Hearing Communities through Translation Technology

When my sign language teacher first sent me the abstract of this project, I was skeptical, but intrigued to say the least.  I did not completely understand how this project would work, but my love for sign language was greater than my skepticism. It meant combining both the Deaf and hearing communities through translation technology.  I sent in my application and was promptly asked for a follow-up interview with the program leader, Dr. Parth Pathak .I gave him my decision by the end of that week: I wished to join the summer project .I have always wished to reach out and help people, even as a child.  When my mother began volunteering with our therapy dog at the local elementary school with the deaf or hard of hearing children, my interest in American Sign Language became stronger.  After observing an interpreter in the classroom, I knew from that moment I wished to be a sign language interpreter. This internship over the past semester has only solidified that wish. Not only have I been signing during the duration of this internship, but I have been learning coding and cooperation skills as well.
My coworkers, Allie, Jesse, and Arisa, were so wonderful and fun to work with, bringing new and fun ideas to the table and happily teaching me how to code when I was not signing, since I was completely clueless.  When we were taking breaks, we would tell each other stories or show each other what we were doing in our free time.  Sometimes, even surprising things brought us together: Allie spilled coffee on her laptop and had to buy a new one, a bug flew into my hair in the office, and there were several power outages. Although working one of the most intense jobs I have had in a long time, I have made some wonderful friends and have learned some very important lessons.