Summer High School Internship Program -- 2011 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 2011 projects are in the departments of Astronomy / NASA Outreach, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Science, Nursing, and Physics and Astronomy.

Astronomy / NASA Outreach (1 project)

Project Title: Monitoring Active Galaxies with the GLAST Optical Robotic Telescope
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lynn Cominsky, Department of Physics and Astronomy and NASA E/PO Group and Dr. Kevin McLin, NASA E/PO Group
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: Population biology and ecology of beach hoppers (Megalorchestia spp.)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karina Nielsen, Department of Biology
Project Description:
Sandy beaches form a dynamic interface between marine and terrestrial habitats and because photosynthetic organisms (large seaweeds for example) don't grow here animals living here rely on inputs of carbon and other organic nutrients from nearby marine habitats. In temperate regions these inputs are primarily phytoplankton (from the surfzone) and marine macrophytes (seagrasses, kelps, and other seaweeds). We are examining how the subsidy of marine macrophytes to sandy beaches structures and regulates populations of upper shore, wrack associated amphipods (small crustaceans sometimes called beach hoppers that feed on washed up organic matter). This study is part of a larger study focusing on baseline monitoring and health of the newly established marine protected areas on the north-central coast of California. The student intern will work in both the field and laboratory with members of our research team (graduate and undergraduate students), and will assist with amphipod collections, wrack and amphipod identification, as well as feeding preference and amphipod growth rate studies.

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: Measurements of Local Atmospheric Pollutants
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.

Computer Science (1 project)

Project Title: Green Graphics: Modeling the Power Consumption of Graphics Processing Units
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Suzanne Rivoire, Department of Computer Science
Project Description:
Graphics processing units (GPUs) have been used for many years to create computer games with spectacular, realistic graphics. Recently, scientists have started to harness GPUs' amazing processing power for supercomputing applications as well. Unfortunately, GPUs consume a lot of power. In this project, we are building models to understand how the ways we use the GPU affects a computer system's power consumption. These models will help people use GPUs more energy- efficiently. Students working on the project will learn about computer hardware and software as well as techniques for building models. No programming experience is required.

Engineering Science (2 projects)

Project Title: Water Quality Measurement Design
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Farid Farahmand, Department of Engineering Science
Project Description:
Design and test a monitoring system that can measure quality of campus water streams and compare them with other fresh water sources. In this project the student will learn about how electronic sensors are used to measure multiple water parameters including temperature, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen, as well as water flow and water depth. Participating student must be willing to work outside the laboratory environment on campus

Project Title: Solar Power System Design
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ali Kujoory, Department of Engineering Science
Project Description:
Learn how to build your own electric power source! Design and test a solar power system that converts sun energy to electricity and stores it in a battery. In this project the student will learn about alternative energy sources, solar panels, power systems, batteries and power storage, as well as electrical measurements. Participating student must be willing to work outside the laboratory environment on campus and be interested to handle mechanical assemblies.

Nursing (1 project)

Project Title: Ethical Issues Regarding Multigestational Pregnancies Due to Artificial Reproductive Technology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anita Catlin, Department of Nursing
Project Description:
Student will participate in ongoing research study of women who have become pregnant with more than three fetuses, with data entry, and data analysis.

Physics (1 project)

Project Title: Electric Current Induced Light Emission from a Zinc Oxide p-n Junction
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Hongtao Shi, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Project Description:
Among the most promising of emerging technologies for optical illumination is the light-emitting diode (LED). Such semiconductor devices have great advantages over traditional incandescent and arc lamps, such as low power consumption and long life time. Zinc oxide (ZnO) is a direct wide band gap semiconductor with intense ultraviolet (UV) light emission when prepared properly. It is a potential material for fabricating UV optoelectronic devices, such as LEDs and laser diodes. The shorter wavelength will enable smaller beam size, which has huge applications in optical data storage. Light-emitting diode p-n junctions are typically based on a mixture of Groups III/V or Groups II/VI elements. In this project, we will use an electrochemical method to fabricate a ZnO p-n junction (II/VI). Samples will then be characterized by facilities in the Keck Microanalysis laboratory on campus, such as scanning electron microscope, x-ray diffractometer, and laser spectrometer. Different voltages will be applied to such a junction while UV spectra are measured in the temperature range from 15 K to 300 K.