Summer 2009 High School STEM Interns Project Descriptions
Presently, 2/3 of our annual heath care budget in the United States is spent in the last 2 months of patients' lives. There is confusion and debate amongst both families and health care providers about when exactly a condition is "terminal" or "life limiting." 250 doctors and nurses were surveyed to identify at what point they determined that a patient was dying, would no longer benefit from curative efforts, and could be transferred to supportive hospice care. Student will assist in data entry, analysis and manuscript preparation for publication.
In collaboration with the City of Santa Rosa Dr. Cohen's laboratory has launched an initiative to examine the feasibility of cultivating aquatic vegetation on treated wastewater in order to lower levels of residual pollutants in the water. Key to the success of this project is finding valuable uses for the harvested biomass. This project investigates the potential to generate methane from the harvested biomass, alone and in combination with agricultural feedstocks that are readily available in Sonoma County. Specifically, the student would prepare replicates of small-scale digestion cultures in the laboratory and monitor the rate and yield of biogas production. Analysis of the results should reveal the existence of synergistic, neutral or inhibitory interactions between substrates. Additionally, the student would assist in preparing samples of the feedstocks and spent digestates for carbon and nitrogen analysis. Concurrent seed germination experiments will assess the suitability of digestate as an agricultural soil amendment.
The Education and Public Outreach program at Sonoma State operates a small observatory located in the Pepperwood Preserve of the California Academy of Sciences. The observatory houses the GLAST Optical Robotic Telescope (GORT) a Celestron 14 inch, remotely operated telescope. For the past several years GORT has been used to make observations in support of NASA high energy astrophysics missions (Swift, XMM), and with the launch this past year of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (formerly GLAST), the pace of work at the observatory has picked up. The primary task of the observatory is to monitor active galaxies for changes in brightness. We use it to do both routine monitoring, for which we have a catalog of 26 objects, and partake in coordinated observing campaigns with other observatories, both on the ground and in space. The intern working with us would learn how to make these observations and how to use computer software to reduce and analyze the acquired data. Included in their tasks would be learning how to accurately measure stellar brightnesses and the effects of the atmosphere on such measurements. They would also become acquainted with the motions of objects in the sky.
In the operation theatre of a hospital, the light intensity affects the visibility of a surgeon. It is quite helpful if the theatre is equipped with an auto adjusted emergency light panel. If any of the working light goes off, the emergency light will be automatically turned on. The auto turn on of a lamp/light bulb can be made through the design of a simple electronic circuit. The darkness of the room will be sensed by a phototransistor. As the intensity of the room goes low, the phototransistor will draw less current from the supply passing more current through the light bulb. The light will be automatically turned on to maintain the same degree of illumination in the room. In this project, the student will get an idea on a transistor and electrical lighting with the knowledge on resistance, current and voltage.
Recent technological improvements of healthcare monitoring equipment, micro- and nano- fabrication processes and wireless communication technologies have led to the developments of miniature, light-weight, and energy-efficient circuit solutions for biomedical sensor applications. Different types of biomedical sensors are being developed in recent years. Among them piezoresistive and capacitive sensors are the most popular because of their wide variety of applications. The main objective of this project is to develop a relatively simple circuit solution for measuring the sensor signal variation, converting it to digital data signal and finally modulating the digital data for short distance wireless transmission. A simple Op-Amp based circuit will be used to accommodate either the piezoresistive or the capacitive sensor and pulse-width-modulation (PWM) technique will be used to detect the sensor variation. The most important thing is that the same circuit could be used for either the piezoresistive or the capacitive sensor. Finally at the output stage a simple oscillator will be used to modulate the PWM signal. With this project students will get hands-on experience with the sensors especially biomedical sensors, simple circuit design technique and basic concept of wireless communication.
Graph theory is a branch of mathematics that is easily accessible and does not require much prior knowledge, but has many real-world applications in a variety of fields. For example, consider a railway network connecting various towns. How can we find the shortest (or the cheapest) route between two specified towns in the network? Is it possible to plan a trip to visit each town exactly once and then return to the starting point? How do we schedule a route for a maintenance team so that they cover each section of railway at least once, and travel as little as possible? All these questions can be answered using graph theory. In this project we introduce elements of graph theory and consider its applications to problems of this type.
A pedometer is a device that records the distance a walker or a jogger covers over time. In this project, the student makes use of a switch that can respond to the body motion at each step and trigger a circuit that would eventually increment a counter and register properly the number of steps that have been covered. The following capabilities are also required in the implementation of the device: resetting the device and switching on and off, portability by using a cheap battery, displaying the distance covered with 3 decimal digits - 1 digit for units of kilometer, 1 digit for the tenths of kilometer, and 1 digit for hundredth of kilometer. It will be good if the device can indicate "low battery".
Magnetocaloric materials are novel materials that get hot or cold when a magnetic field is applied to them. This allows them to be ideal candidates for components of more efficient refrigerator devices. Over the last five years a wide number of new materials have been realized that have large magnetocaloric effects with materials that are not too expensive or toxic. In this project a student will work with a number of magnetocaloric materials looking for the impact of pressure and sample geometry in attempts to better understand and improve this phenomena. SSU has a state of the art Magnetic Field Laboratory with fields up to 17 Tesla that the student will be working with.
The intern will participate in the release of an open-source software package to model computers' power consumption. The intern will help prepare the software for release by adding features, improving the performance of the current (unreleased) implementation, testing the software and models developed, and/or producing documentation for the user community. Programming experience is a plus but is not necessary.
A semiconductor is a material that its electrical conductivity can vary over wide range between those of an insulator and a conductor. Semiconductors have important applications in data storage, mobile devices, and optoelectronics, etc. The semiconductor industry has been abiding by Moore's Law that computing power has doubled roughly every 18 months, which has driven the digital revolution of the last few decades. While silicon is the most popular semiconductor for electronic devices, other materials are being explored for high speed applications and for optical applications, such as light-emitting diodes and laser diodes, in the blue or ultraviolet (UV) regimes. Recently, oxide semiconductors have attracted special interest for their unique optical and electric properties. In this project, we will use electrochemical reaction to fabricate zinc oxide (ZnO) films on different wafers, which is a material suitable for blue or UV applications. We will use the Keck Microanalysis laboratory to investigate the structural and optical properties of these samples. We will also dope these samples with magnetic ions to try to form diluted magnetic semiconductors for future applications in spintronic devices.
The main research effort in our group is to study the behavior of protein films adsorbed to substrate surfaces for potential use as optical, chemical or electrochemical sensors. The overall goal is to establish control over how the protein adsorbs to the surface, and how the protein responds to chemical stimulus once on the surface. More specifically, denaturation effect, also known as protein unfolding, on surface bound proteins is studied with use of prototype heme protein cytochrome c on fused silica (glass) surface. Using our newly developed optical technique, attenuated total reflection (ATR) polarization spectroscopy, we are now able to characterize monolayer heme protein film adsorption on the surface and hence focus on the protein-surface interactions. Thermodynamics and energy transfer involved in the surface adsorption are studied through adsorption equilibrium constants, surface packing density, and molecular orientation of protein coverage on the surface. Further chemical changes in the solution around the surface can (and will) cause denaturation to protein already on the surface, similar to the effect occurring in the biological system. Therefore, at its fundamental molecular level, this research investigates changes of molecular structure of surface bound protein under the conditions that are closely related to its native biological environment. The understanding of the fundamental principles governing the surface adsorption is necessary to improve our control of growing proteins on various substrates which is crucial to many practical applications, such as protein chip technologies.