Summer High School Internship Program -- 2015 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. This year's projects are in the areas of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Science, Environmental Studies and Planning, Kinesiology, Mathematics and Statistics, Nursing, and Physics.

Biology (1 project)

BIO-1: Assessing the Cross-reactivity of Commercial Antibodies in Marine Invertebrates

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sean Place, Department of Biology

Project Description:

During the course of this project, the SHIP intern will work directly with Dr. Place and his graduate students to determine the cross-reactivity of commercially available antibodies designed to recognize proteins belonging to the heat shock protein family. Heat shock proteins are essential proteins found in every organism studied to date. They play a key role in helping an organism respond to stressful events that can damage the cell. As such, these proteins are important markers of environmental stress in many marine invertebrates that are subjected to significant fluctuations in environmental temperature. Unfortunately, most commercial antibodies are designed to interact with mammalian proteins. The SHIP intern will work to identify commercial antibodies that can also recognize the same protein in a variety of marine organisms such as mussels, sea stars, ousters and limpets.

This project will incorporate both laboratory and field work. The SHIP intern would assist in the collection of marine invertebrates and environmental temperature data during short day trips to Bodega Bay. After collection, the intern would employ a technique called a Western analysis in which antibodies are used to visualize and quantify specific proteins after separation on a polyacrylamide gel matrix. This project will expose the intern to a number of field and laboratory experiences that can be applicable to a large number of research questions in the biological sciences.

Chemistry (2 projects)

CHEM-1: 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-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.

CHEM-2: Identifying Key RNA-Protein Interactions to Optimize Targeted Cancer Therapies

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Monica Lares, Department of Chemistry

Project Description:

Current cancer therapies such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy can leave residual tumor cells and have off-target effects. Aptamers are used in a type of targeted cancer therapy that more precisely identify and attack cancer cells, while leaving unaffected cells unharmed. In B-cell malignancies, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there is increased expression of B-cell activating factor (BAFF) and its receptor (BAFF-R). Upon binding to its receptor, BAFF increases B-cell proliferation and survival, allowing cancer cells to proliferate faster than normal B-cells. An RNA aptamer has been identified that binds BAFF-R with high specificity and affinity, blocking BAFF binding. However the nucleotides of the RNA aptamer and the amino acids of BAFF-R responsible for their interaction are unknown.

In order to identify these essential nucleotides and amino acids the intern in our lab would help design, synthesize, and confirm a mutant form of the BAFF-R protein. There are positively charged amino acid residues that have been hypothesized to be responsible this interaction. Mutating these residues to an amino acid with no charge will allow us to observe the effect this has on aptamer binding. The intern would be introduced to techniques such as transforming DNA into bacterial cells in order to make multiple copies of DNA, site-directed mutagenesis in order to make mutations in the DNA that encode for the BAFF-R protein, gel electrophoresis, and analyzing sequencing data to confirm mutations in the DNA. This contribution will be significant because it will provide the details that allow for fine-tune engineering of aptamers to be used in target cancer therapies, thus improving quality of life and more successful clinical outcomes for patients will B-cell malignancies. The proposed project is innovative, in our opinion, because this is a new way to target B-cells that is currently underdeveloped and therefore underutilized.

Computer Science (1 project)

CS-1: Data Mining Academic Department Course Offerings

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ali Kooshesh, Department of Computer Science

Project Description:

The computational process of discovering trends in large data sets – data mining as it has come to be called – has long been a topic of interest in Computer Science. However, with the explosive rate at which information is being generated, data mining has come to include the whole life cycle of data — from gathering of information, data management through the use of structured and semi-structured databases, design of models for pattern discovery, crafting inference rules, and finally, the presentation of data through data visualization techniques.

This SHIP project is based on an already existing system that models the courses and students of a hypothetical academic department (even though the attribute values of the underlying data are factitious, they model real data). The main components of this system include data extraction and integration, a powerful search engine, pattern analysis, and information visualization. The intern will work with the faculty and an undergraduate student to become familiar with methods for modeling data dependency, pattern discovery, anomaly detection, and data visualization. At the same time, the intern will take part in integrating new methods into this system.

Engineering Science (1 project)

ES-1: Snap Circuits for Kids

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jack Ou, Department of Engineering Science

Project Description:

In this project, you will learn to build Snap Circuits and explore their potential application in early childhood engineering education. You will work with an engineering faculty member, as well as preschool students and teachers, to develop instructional Snap Circuits materials for children between the ages of 3 and 6. You will produce multimedia tutorials to train other preschool teachers. Preference is given to candidates who are planning a career in early childhood STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and are able to demonstrate prior experience working with children.

Environmental Studies and Planning (1 project)

ENSP-1: Estimation of Rural Electricity Demand

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Soto, Environmental Studies and Planning

Project Description:

Twenty percent of people around the world don't have electricity because it is too expensive to build power lines to where they live. Instead, we can provide solar panels and batteries once we know how many of each are required to give people the energy they need. The goal of this project is to predict the future electricity usage of communities that don't yet have it. The intern will analyze survey data from over one thousand households in several Indonesian villages and look for patterns that tell us about energy use. These predictions can help us bring electricity to new areas at a lower price than building power lines.

Kinesiology (1 project)

KIN-1: Effects of Unilateral vs. Bilateral Exercise on Skeletal Muscle Function

Faculty Mentors: Dr. Bülent Sökmen and Dr. Kurt Sollanek, Department of Kinesiology

Project Description:

Post-activation potentiation (PAP) is a complex phenomenon by which muscle force production temporarily increases following maximal and/or exhaustive resistance exercise. Resistance training has been shown to temporarily improve speed, muscular strength and power in activities immediately following exercise. Unilateral and bilateral exercises are a common mode of training for competitive athletes and of injury rehabilitation in physical therapy settings. Due to differences in the nature of movement, amount of muscle mass involvement, physiological and metabolic stress, and complex central and peripheral nervous system involvement, these two types of training might have different PAP benefits. Therefore, this study will examine PAP benefits on rate of force development and peak power following bilateral and unilateral strength training.

Mathematics and Statistics (1 project)

MATH-1: Mathematical Modeling Challenge

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Martha Shott, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Project Description:

Each November, the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) hosts an international mathematical contest in modeling for high school students (the HiMCM). During the contest, students work in teams of up to four on open-ended, real-world problems. They will have thirty-six consecutive hours to research their problem, develop an appropriate mathematical model, analyze their findings, and write a formal report to submit to a panel of judges. Problems in previous years have included the following: Determine the locations for three ambulances which would maximize the number of people who can be reached within 8 minutes of a 911 call in a given region; develop a model that a consumer could use each week to determine how much gas – a full tank (price will go up at the end of the week) or half tank (price will decrease later in the week) – to purchase; develop an efficient bike rental program for a given city.

The selected intern(s) will learn mathematical and statistical modeling techniques during the summer, and participate in mock contests in preparation for the international contest in the fall.

Nursing (1 project)

NURS-1: Planning for the Future From Ages 55-102: A Community-Wide Assessment

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Deborah Roberts, Department of Nursing

Project Description:

The Oakmont Village Strategic Planning Committee has invited the Sonoma State University Department of Nursing Chair to consult and provide services to facilitate the community assessment plan, data analysis, and dissemination. The plan of work has begun with bimonthly meetings at Oakmont Village. Currently residents are being informed of the study and invited to focus groups to participate in information gathering. Residents may participate in a focus group, complete an on-line survey, or work with an individual surveyor that will carry a tablet to their door with a scheduled appointment and assist with the completion of the online survey. Following data collection, all information from focus groups and surveys will be compiled and evaluated for themes, and prepared for dissemination locally and at appropriate identified forums outside the region. This summer, in particular, will be focused on data dissemination in the form of scholarly literature review and manuscript development that will present the research findings from the project this spring. The student will help aggregate the findings into a form best suited for publication and review the literature on similar studies.

Physics (2 projects)

PHYS-1: Development of Advanced Water Harvesting Prototype

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jeremy Qualls, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Project Description:

Water is one of our greatest resources on the planet. However, access to clean drinking water is a severe challenge for many people around the world. SSU is developing novel techniques to harvest water from the air to create large amounts of drinking water with both zero emission and zero electric footprint. The project is now at the stage of increasing the efficiency of the device by examining new materials and condenser designs. The selected SHIP student will run diagnostics on existing designs as well as design and construct systems with optimal thermal and structural properties. The entire system must also be cost-engineered to be less than $90 a square foot so that the device has global commercial value.

PHYS-2: Fabrication and Characterization of TiO2

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Hongtao Shi, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Project Description:

The principal drive toward fabricating nanometer-scale titanium dioxide (TiO2) lies in the promise of achieving unique properties and superior performance due to its inherent nano-architectures. Such a versatile material can be used in many technological applications, such as photo catalysis, gas sensing, and optical coating. Therefore, the ability to control nanometer-scale TiO2 architectures can be expected to positively impact many technologies. This project is to develop an electrochemical process to treat the surface of titanium in order to fabricate vertically ordered TiO2 nanotubes. We will adjust all possible parameters to optimize such a self-assembly process. The facilities in the Keck Microanalysis laboratory, such as the scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, will be used to probe all samples.