Thursday, January 21, 2021

URSP Student Sidney Boakye Conducts a Study on the Surface Degradation of Additively Manufactured (3D-Printed) ABS Polymer for Naval Applications

Additive manufacturing (AM) has recently gained attention due to its ability to transform manufacturing and logistics processes. Additionally, additively manufactured alternatives would provide extra savings and a level of flexibility, especially when it comes to replacement parts, which can not be matched by traditional methods. However, questions remain about the durability of 3D printed components and if trade-offs in durability are worth the cost benefits. My research attempts to tackle these questions by comparing additively manufactured ABS plastic with its traditionally manufactured counterpart. Samples of each would be exposed to an accelerated corrosion environment while being submerged in saltwater. I printed rectangular and dogbone shaped ABS samples and ordered comparable traditional manufactured versions of the same. The rectangular samples were used for wear testing while the dogbone samples were used for tensile testing. Both sample types were placed in containers with varying temperatures (29, 60 and 70 degrees Celsius) and left for 1, 2, and 4-week intervals.

My primary interest is in liquid rocket propulsion. Right now, multiple industries are figuring out ways to better utilize additive manufacturing, including the aerospace industry. Rocket manufacturers are now looking at 3D printing some components. One company, Relativity Space, formed with the goal of 3D printing an entire rocket. 

An average day of research is walking 5 meters from my room to the unoccupied bedroom in my dorm and firing up the 3-D printer. Yes, I am conducting this research in my dorm room. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of adaptions in how students and researcher go about their daily business. This is one of my adaptations. I will test different prints, orientation for printing samples, clean on excess materials, and repeat.  The main adaptation we made was creating the samples in my dorm room and having all the materials purchased for the experiments shipped to my dorm. The next step is to conduct the corrosion test for all the samples.

Friday, January 15, 2021

URSP Student Aditya Pulipaka Studies the Design, Development, and Characterization of 3D Printed PEEK polymer

My research project is the Design, Development, and Characterization of 3D Printed PEEK polymer, which can potentially be utilized in biomedical applications as a solution for defective bone tissue. This project fits into my future plans, as I plan to continue to pursue research for the rest of my undergraduate career. I also plan to pursue a Masters and/or PhD degree. An average research day is researching articles that pertain to our research, as well as printing samples using our 3D printer. Due to Covid, we cannot be in the laboratory as much as we would like for testing, so we are waiting until all the samples are done printing to start the testing phase. So far I have discovered how to use PEEK with a 3D printer, as well as the potential applications that this research could be used for. My project stayed the same during Covid, however the timeline was pushed back. Because we were not in the laboratory, an abundance amount of time was spent searching for new articles and other research that could help us with our manuscript for publishing. The next steps in our research is to finish the 27 horizontal samples and start tribological and mechanical testing. After this, we want to print another 27 samples with a vertical orientation and perform these same tests. Then, the data will be compared and analyzed to determine a correlation, which will eventually lead to publishing of our work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

URSP Student Christopher Veatch Works to Fabricate and Optimize Magnetic Iron Nanorods

This fall, I have been working with Dr. Moran in the GMU mechanical engineering department to fabricate and optimize magnetic iron nanorods for use in medicine, delivering drugs directly to tumors (alleviating the issues associated with traditional chemotherapy). As expected, COVID-19 has presented roadblocks to acquiring materials from distributors and spending time in the lab, but that has not stopped the lab’s research completely. My goal is to develop the apparatus to mass-produce iron nanorods and optimize the process for coating them in polyethylene glycol (PEG). The rods are grown through a process known as electrodeposition which resembles making a batch of cupcakes. First, an aqueous solution containing iron ions fills the cylindrical nanopores of a membrane. The diameter of the pores is the same as the diameter of the eventual rods, and these pores are tiny – about 1/10000th the diameter of a human hair. The membrane serves as our “muffin pan.” The “baking” process occurs when an electric charge is sent through the membrane which reduces the iron in solution into its neutral, solid state. Slowly, the “cupcakes” grow in solid metal form. Removing these iron cupcakes from their membrane pan is achieved by dissolving it and the product is thousands of magnetic iron nanorods. The “toppings” can be any drug that can be loaded on to treat diseases such as cancer. The PEG layer “lubricates” the rods so they can move through tissues more efficiently.

So far, I have aided with the design of the experiment and facilitated contact with suppliers and vendors to acquire materials and ensure our setup would work. I also helped Dr. Moran in preparing figures and graphics related to grant proposals. This semester presented many challenges in the form of COVID-19 but this project allowed me to learn a great deal about myself and my future goals. Throughout this project, I realized that I am far more interested in optimizing the process for creating iron nanorods than I am interested in their potential uses, which is the opposite of what I expected before beginning research.

Friday, January 8, 2021

URSP Student Evalise Pacheco Studies if Hispanic and Latinx Students Feel Racially and Ethnically Included in Higher Education

My name is Evalise Pacheco, I am a junior at George Mason and this is my first semester getting involved in research. I’ve been interested in conducting qualitative research ever since I started a Mason. As an Honors student one of the first courses I took taught me how to formulate a research question and as a Criminology student, I had a particular interest in understanding inequality. I took courses that focused on inequality, discrimination, and more until I came to a course that focused on inequality in higher education, and the rest was history. Drawn by my own experiences as a Latina, I was curious to see how other Latinx students may have experienced the diversity at Mason and so I submitted a proposal to OSCAR URSP. My specific research question is, do Hispanic and Latinx students feel racially and ethnically included in higher education?

When I submitted this proposal the expectation was to conduct in-person interviews. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was no longer an option. Therefore, for the protection of all participants, I transitioned my interviews to be conducted virtually through Zoom. Surprisingly enough, there are a lot of things that virtual interviews have made easier, for example the distribution of gift cards to participants, the audio and visual recording aspect and even the ability to schedule the interviews. I am both grateful and fortunate that my research has not been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but I can say this was not how I expected my research to be conducted. Regardless, my research has been continuing at a good pace and I am close to completing all my interviews. The next step in my research is to finish transcription of the interviews and analyze them through a process of open coding. After coding is completed, I hope to use analytical memos to look for patterns across the interviewees as a way of understanding similarities and differences in the experiences of Hispanic and Latinx students.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

URSP Student Nicholas Lanuzo Researches a Type of Additive Manufacturing Called Selective Laser Melting

My name is Nicholas Lanuzo and for my research I worked with Dr. Amiri to research modeling a type of additive manufacturing called Selective Laser Melting or SLM. The SLM process works by depositing a thin layer of metallic powder onto the work surface then, using a laser, a small portion of the powder is heated to extreme temperatures to melt it. The molten pool of metal, or melt pool, is rapidly cooled into a solid piece of metal. When metals are rapidly heated and cooled it causes residual internal thermal stresses, which is detrimental to the metals overall mechanical strength. My research currently consists of making a numerical simulation to model the laser heating the powder, as the physics behind this interaction are too complex to solve analytically. Once an accurate model has been created, the heating and cooling rate can be found which will be used analytically to find the internal stresses.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic my research is completely based on simulations and has no physical experimental data. The original plan was to use the SLM process to make a design and analyze its internal stresses and its transient temperature as it was being created. Then, the numerical simulation would be created to match this part. Because we can not go into the lab, we instead are basing our numerical model off of data from literature. Now, a typical day of research consists of making changes to the model and running it (which takes around 10 minutes) to see how it affects the overall temperature of the sample. The types of changes to the model can be altering the material properties of the powder, changing boundary conditions, or trying to refine the mesh for our simulation.

Monday, January 4, 2021

USRP Student Kara Crawford Researches the Impact of Gender Representation for College Women in Men-Dominated and Women-Dominated Majors

How do women experience higher education? Is there a significant difference in the experiences of women in men-dominated fields verses women in women-dominated fields? Preexisting sociological research has focused primarily on the differences in how men and women choose their majors, as well as differences in outcomes after college based on gender. However, there has been very little research on college women’s experiences within their major. Over the course of this semester, I have interviewed undergraduate women at GMU in majors with that consist of over 70% women, or less than 30% in order to understand how this gender concentration has affected their academic experience. Due to the pandemic, the interviews have been held over Zoom, rather than in-person. This electronic format poses some unique challenges that I did not anticipate when I first envisioned this project. My participants and I have persevered through internet connection struggles, distractions that come from working from home, and the difficulty of building a rapport in a virtual setting. Nevertheless, my interviews for this project have been successful, thanks to the willingness and honestly of my participants. As I write this, I recently finished conducting all the interviews for this project, so my next step is to have the recordings transcribed, and then to code my transcripts. 

Although I have not yet had the opportunity to analyze my interviews for trends, my hope is that this project will help provide those who work in higher education with a more comprehensive understanding of how to make men-dominated majors more accessible to women. From what I have discovered so far, the experiences of women undergraduates, particularly those in men-dominated majors, could stand to be improved, even at a school as inclusive as GMU. Encouraging more women to join these majors is one possible solution to some of these inequalities.