Summer High School Internship Program -- 2012 Projects and Interns

The Summer High School Internship Program is a collaboration between the Sonoma County Office of Education and SSU School of Science and Technology. Summer 2012 projects were in the departments of Astronomy / NASA Outreach, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Science, Kinesiology, Mathematics & Statistics, and Physics.

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, NASA E/PO Group
SHIP Interns: Adrian Chan, Pathways Charter School; Joanna Ortiz, Roseland University Prep; Brodie Vivio, Montgomery High School
Volunteer: Audrey Chan, Pathways Charter School
Project Description:
The NASA Education and Public Outreach program at Sonoma State operates a small observatory located in the Pepperwood Preserve in northeast Sonoma County. The observatory houses the GLAST Optical Robotic Telescope (GORT), a Celestron 14-inch remote/robotic telescope. For nearly ten years, GORT has been used to make observations in support of NASA high energy astrophysics missions, including Swift, XMM-Newton and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (formerly GLAST). With the launch of NASA’s NuSTAR mission in March 2012, we expect the work to increase. 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 approximately 28 objects, and partake in coordinated observing campaigns with other observatories, both on the ground and in space. This summer we might also try to find time to observe some of the recently discovered exoplanets of the Kepler telescope.
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 nature of the objects we study and the general motions of objects in the sky.

Biology (1 project)

Project Title: Molecular Analysis of Immune Cells from the Sea Lamprey
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Lin, Department of Biology
SHIP Intern: Yucheng (Jason) Li, Maria Carrillo HS
Project Description:
The goal of any immune system is to protect the organism from foreign microbes that can cause disease. Several decades of investigation into this underlying principle has led to the categorization of the immune response into two components: a rudimentary "innate" immune response seen in all living organisms and a more complex "adaptive" immune response seen in only more evolved animals. For many years, it was believed that adaptive immune responses only existed in the vertebrates with jaws, however recently this notion has been called into question. Studies have now shown that in fact the lamprey and hagfish, modern-day representatives of the class of jawless vertebrates, do in fact have an adaptive immune system and can mount an effective adaptive immune response. Interestingly, the cells and molecules that mediate the response in the jawless fishes are quite different from conventional adaptive immune responses seen in organisms such as mice and humans.
My research focuses on comparing the molecular and cellular differences between conventional adaptive immune cells and cells from the sea lamprey. Using standard techniques to assay both DNA and protein function, we hope to identify and elucidate the function of novel proteins expressed in these unique cells.

Chemistry (2 projects)

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
SHIP Intern: Anita Savell, Santa Rosa HS
Volunteers: James Pierpoint and Carol Shi, Maria Carrillo HS
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-borne 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 borne 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. Students that work on this project will have the opportunity to present their results to other scientists.

Project Title: Quantum Yield Determination of a Potential Photo-Catalysis for the Activation of Hydrogen
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Carmen Works, Department of Chemistry
SHIP Intern: Amy Jin, Casa Grande HS
Volunteers: Remi Leano, Maria Carrillo HS
Project Description:
Interest in fundamental research on alternative energy sources is increasing because fossil fuels are becoming depleted and their use is a major environmental concern. Hydrogen is a clean energy source since the only combustion product is water. This research project involves the characterization of a potential catalysis for the activation of hydrogen. The characterization specifically focuses on the quantification of photochemical properties of these molecules.

Computer Science and Mathematics & Statistics (1 project)

Project Title: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Program Visualization Tools
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Suzanne Rivoire, Department of Computer Science and Elizabeth Giuliani, Department of Mathematics & Statistics
SHIP Interns: Kylie Dale, Healdsburg HS and Akhil Nadendla, Casa Grande HS
Project Description:
The Online Python Tutor is an innovative tool that allows programmers to understand the internal processes of the programs they write. It is used in introductory programming classes around the world, but its benefits for student learning have never been quantified. We will design a research study to understand how to use this learning tool effectively. The student will learn basic Python programming (no experience necessary) and learn about program visualization and computer science education.

Engineering Science (2 projects)

Project Title: Solar-to-Electrical Energy System Design
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ali Kujoory, Department of Engineering Science
SHIP Intern: Waleed Atallah, Technology HS
Volunteer Faculty: Jessica McCready, Orchard View HS
Project Description:
In this project, the student will learn about alternative energy sources, solar panels, power systems, batteries and voltage regulators, voltage converters, and electrical measurements, as well as solar panel characterization. The project has two parts. In Part A, the student will learn about solar energy, its conversion to electrical energy and system design, and how to convert 12V to 5V to feed the power electronic devices. In Part B, the student will work in the mechanical shop to build the mobile holding structure and assemble the solar panels connected to the voltage regulator, the battery and the voltage converter for the electronics. The electrical testing will be done in the lab and outside under the sun. Participating student must be willing to work in the mechanical shop, electronics lab, and outside in the sun on campus and be interested in mechanical assembly.

Project Title: ECG Measurement System
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jack Ou, Department of Engineering Science
SHIP Intern: Nick Rose, Analy HS
Project Description:
An ECG is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart. It can be used to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats. We will build an ECG measurement system consisted of an AgCl electrode, an instrumentation amplifier, an opto-coupler, and a bandpass filter. The AgCl electrode will convert an ECG signal into electrical voltage. The instrumentation amplifier will amplify the heartbeat and reject the noise from the surroundings. The opto-coupler will be used to isolate the amplifier from the measurement equipment. A bandpass filter will be used to remove high frequency noise. High school students interested in a career in Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, or Electrical Engineering may be interested in this project.

Kinesiology (1 project)

Project Title: Effects of Caffeine Intake on Exercise Efficiency, Muscle Fiber Recruitments, and Power Output
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Bülent Sökmen, Department of Kinesiology
SHIP Intern: Emily Goldfield, Montgomery HS
Volunteer: Nate Bechtel, Casa Grande HS
Project Description:
Caffeine has been found to have global effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and on hormonal, metabolic, muscular, and cardiovascular functions during rest and exercise. It is clear that caffeine ingestion improves a single bout of endurance performance; however, it is not clear what mechanism improves endurance performance. Earlier studies related this improvement in endurance performance to sparing muscle glycogen (peripheral fatigue) due to increased fatty acid utilization; later on the improvement is related to decreased pain perception (central fatigue) due to known analgesic effects.
I will test this phenomenon looking at the the effects of acute caffeine intake (5 mg⋅kg-1) on exercise economy through oxygen consumption, muscle fiber recruitments through Electromyography (EMG), substrate utilization through blood lactate and glucose, performance variables through isokinetic strength testing and cycling time trials, and pain perception during time trials following intermittent cycling performance in trained males and females. We will be conducting several exercise protocols with which high school students can help in data collection.

Physics (2 projects)

Project Title: Residual Gas Analyzer for Material Development
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jeremy Qualls, Department of Physics and Astronomy
SHIP Intern: Allen Chu, Maria Carrillo HS
Volunteer: Aaron Shotkin, Sonoma Academy
Project Description:
The development of new materials and instrumentation is often limited by our ability to know exactly what it is we are working with. This project directly addresses that issue and involves modifying a residual gas analyzer and integrating it into a high vacuum portable turbo (turbine) pump. The project is hands-on intensive. If the device can be finished by early summer, it will be incorporated into a range of experiments to calibrate the light emission from plasmas, to develop a 0.5 Kelvin helium 3 cryostat, and to examine the doping impact on organic conductors. The experience will introduce the intern to many aspects of material science research, including low temperature and pressure physics as well as modern sensor technology.

Project Title: Structure and Optical Properties of Mn-doped ZnS
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Hongtao Shi, Department of Physics and Astronomy
SHIP Intern: Erica Yee, Casa Grande High School
Project Description:
Zinc sulfide (ZnS) is a semiconductor which emits ultraviolet light when irradiated by an appropriate light source. With an addition of a few parts per million (ppm) of suitable impurities, it can be used as phosphor in many applications, as well as an alternative solar-cell material. In this work, we will use a wet chemical route to synthesize manganese (Mn)-doped ZnS thin films, followed by thermal treatment in different gases to form crystals with features as small as a few nanometers (1 nm = 10-9 m). Impurity level and annealing parameters will be carefully chosen to obtain light emissions in the visible range to show different colors. All samples will be thoroughly characterized in the Keck Microanalysis laboratory. Our goal is to elaborate a unique synthesis process to improve the efficiency and intensity of light emission for potential optical applications. With a single starting crystal a set of different colors could be produced by adjusting the atmosphere wherein the sample is thermally treated.