Summer High School Internship Program -- 2010 Project List

The Summer High School Internship Program is a collaboration between the Sonoma County Office of Education and SSU School of Science and Technology. The 2010 projects are in the departments of Astronomy / NASA Outreach, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering Science, Nursing, and Physics and Astronomy.

Astronomy / NASA Outreach (1 project)

Project Title: Monitoring Active Galaxies with the GLAST Optical Robotic Telescope
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Lynn Cominsky, Department of Physics and Astronomy and NASA E/PO Group; Dr. Kevin McLin, GORT Director
Project Description:
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.

Biology (1 project)

Project Title: Variation Among Isolates of the Pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nathan Rank, Department of Biology
Project Description:
A fungus-like pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, infects leaves of bay laurel trees and the spores disperse to coast live oak, black oak, and tanoak trees to infect the bark and ultimately often to kill them. We find that strains of this pathogen differ greatly in their ability to infect new bay leaves. Some bay trees may be resistant to infection by the pathogen and these trees might ultimately be useful to inhibit the spread of the pathogen. We are studying genetic differences among strains of P. ramorum whose infectivity we have already studied. Students would be involved with extracting DNA from the pathogen, and amplifying segments of that DNA to characterize genetic differences among isolates of the pathogen.

Chemistry (3 projects)

Project Title: Isolation of Fluorescent Molecules from Natural Sources
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Steve Farmer, Department of Chemistry
Project Description:
Fluorescent molecules are interesting because they have a wide variety of applications in the field of biotechnology. Fluorescent molecules emit an intense and distinctive color of light when exposed to ultraviolet light. This characteristic is exploited by using them as tags to enhance the imaging of biomolecules, such as DNA or proteins. Many florescent molecules used as tags are based on naturally occurring molecules. Because of this my lab is interested in isolating new types of fluorescent molecules in plants common to the area. Students working on the project will learn the organic chemistry techniques commonly used for the isolation of naturally occurring molecules (extraction and purification). Also, students will learn how to operate the instruments used to characterize organic molecules (mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, and infrared spectrometry).

Project Title: Characterization of the Key Molecular Features involved in the Anti-microbial Activity of Bacteriocins
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Whiles Lillig, Department of Chemistry
Project Description:
The re-emergence of bacterial pathogens as a significant threat to public health has lead to an increased awareness of food safety. One of the most common food-born pathogens is Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium found to contaminate a variety of raw and processed foods including vegetables, meats, and dairy products. Listeria infection can result in a variety of illnesses ranging in severity from fever and nausea to meningitis and fetal miscarriage. In the past decade it has been found that lactic acid bacteria, common food-born bacteria that are non-pathogenic, produce small proteins that kill Listeria. The intern in our research lab will help to perform biochemical experiments for use in understanding the key features of these molecules and their target membranes that allow them to target and kill other competing bacteria. This work can aid in the development of these molecules as both potent and safe drugs and food preservatives for fighting and preventing human diseases. The scheduling for the intern's work is flexible. Students that work on this project will have the opportunity to present their results to other scientists. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Project Title: Atmospheric Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Perri, Department of Chemistry
Project Description:
Dr. Perri's research group is interested in the chemistry that takes place in our atmosphere. Currently we are working on three projects: tropospheric ozone, ethanol, and aerosols. Tropospheric ozone is a health hazard, which causes lung irritation (asthma). We are working on computer models to predict local ozone levels and to determine ways that we can work to lower its concentration. Ethanol (alcohol) is being mixed into our gasoline; however, not much is known about the effect that ethanol will have on our atmosphere. We are working to capture ethanol from the air and analyze it, in order to determine its impact. Aerosols are tiny particles that are suspended in the air that we breathe. Small aerosols make their way into our lungs and are a serious health hazard. We have data from aerosol monitoring sites and are working on characterizing the aerosols that we have collected.

Engineering (4 projects)

Project Title: Design of Energy Supply Monitoring Unit for Uninterrupted Mobile Automated Systems
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sazia Eliza, Department of Engineering Science
Project Description:
Mobile automated systems require continuous energy monitoring units to prevent any unexpected failure of operation. The proposed work will build a circuit to predict the estimated lifetime of the energy supply unit (i.e. battery). With the minimum level of energy, it will generate necessary warnings for the required replacement or charging of the battery source. In addition, the circuit will have the provision of drawing power from an external solar cell unit for outdoor operation and charging up the battery unit at the same time. The system will have the switching circuitry to efficiently switch between the solar cell and the rechargeable battery units. This project would require hardware level work and LabVIEW based software interface.

Project Title: Programming Your Roomba
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Farid Farahmand, Department of Engineering Science
Project Description:
Roomba is the first intelligent vacuum that uses robotic technology to clean floors. A unique feature of Roomba is that it can easily be hacked! In this project the intern will learn how to reprogram Roomba and convert it into an intelligent robot; drive the Roomba with a cell phone or use it as a musical instrument or plotter. Through this research project, the student will gain hands-on experience in robotics and wireless technologies.

Project Title: Design of a Stepper Motor Controller for Mobile Robot Applications
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mohammad Haider, Department of Engineering Science
Project Description:
In recent years, mobile robot applications have been extended in a wide variety of areas ranging from military to civilian lives, in manufacturing processes and quality controls, in hazardous environments or even rehabilitation applications. Usually several stepper motors along with different sensors are placed inside the robot unit for the controlled movement of the unit avoiding obstacles and collisions. The goal of this project is to design such a controller which will take signals from two or more sensors and control the speed and position of stepper motors. Project tasks will include learn the basic principles of stepper motor, work with sensors, use a stepper motor driver, learn how to design logic circuits and generate control signals either by using logic gates or by writing some codes in hardware description language. Any student interested to work in hardware level will be highly preferable. Any computer programming skill is a plus.

Project Title: Digital Alarm Clock
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ali Kujoory, Department of Engineering Science
Project Description:
Design a digital alarm clock to alarm (make a loud sound) at a specific time that is set as desired using digital electronic circuits. The primary use of an alarm clock is to awaken us from our sleep in order to start the day in the mornings. It is also used for other reminders. The clock shows the military time (0-24 hours), 2 digits for hours and 2 digits for minutes. To stop the alarm (sound), a button or handle on the clock is pressed, or stop automatically after 1 minute if left unattended. Some mechanism is used to set the desired time in hours and minutes. The work include the design of the alarm clock, making an estimate of the parts required, ordering the parts, connecting the parts on a proto-board, and testing the whole circuit.

Nursing (1 project)

Project Title: Patients with Co-Morbidities of Physical Health Problems with Mental Health Problems
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anita Catlin, Department of Nursing
Project Description:
In recent years, psychiatric medication improvements now allow patients with serious mental illness to live in the local community. When these patients develop a medical problem, such as heart disease, respiratory ailments, or orthopedic problems, they are admitted to local community hospitals. Staff members in local community hospitals are well trained to serve medical surgical, intensive care, and maternal child health problems. They are less trained and less able to serve patients with concurrent mental health needs. In this summer project, a future physician, nurse, psychologist or research scientist will assist Dr. Anita Catlin investigate the needs of patients in a community hospital who also have mental health diagnoses. The work will consist of compiling literature summaries, conducting health provider interviews, visiting mental health programs and building an educational program for local hospital staff members.

Physics (1 project)

Project Title: Laser-induced Light Emission from Semiconductors
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Hongtao Shi, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Project Description:
The electronics and optics industry has enjoyed phenomenal growth in the past 60 years mainly because of the advancement in semiconductor technologies. Recently, oxide semiconductors have attracted much attention due to their unique optical properties. In this project, the intern will participate in fabricating semiconductor thin films using electrochemistry. These samples will then be thermally annealed in air to improve their quality, and characterized by facilities in the Keck Microanalysis laboratory at Sonoma State University, such as scanning electron microscope and x-ray diffractometer. An ultraviolet laser will be used to excite these samples so the effect of thermal annealing on the optical properties of these films can be investigated. The intern is also expected to use a low temperature apparatus to probe the temperature effect on the light emission from these semiconductors between 15 K and 300 K.