Summer High School Internship Program -- 2018 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 Astronomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Science, Kinesiology, and Nursing.

Astronomy (2 projects)

ASTR-1: Doing Astronomical Observations with the GLAST Optical Robotic Telescope

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lynn Cominsky, Department of Physics and Astronomy and SSU E/PO Group

Project Description:

The 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 June 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.

ASTR-2: Eclipse Megamovie: Making Videos and Calculating Brightness to Learn about Solar Dynamics Using 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Photographs Taken by the Public

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Laura Peticolas, SSU E/PO Group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy

Project Description:

The Education and Public Outreach program at Sonoma State is now working on the Eclipse Megamovie Project. This project involved training and collecting photographs from volunteers across the United States who were under the “path of totality” for the August, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. Volunteers photographed the Sun's atmosphere, e.g. the solar chromosphere and corona, from the path of totality. Over 50,000 images were uploaded by over 1,900 volunteers.

The selected SHIP intern will assist in downloading images from a database on a Google Cloud server, calibrating images using computer software tools including python computer code, and analyzing the photographs for potential correlations in brightness with known solar events seen in NASA data. The intern will have the opportunity to virtually meet and speak to others working with the Eclipse Megamovie data at Google and the University of California Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory.

Chemistry (2 projects)

CHEM-1: Study of the Interaction Between Gold Nanoparticles and Hydrogels

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Bogdan Negru, Department of Chemistry

Project Description:

Our group research is in the field of nanoscience and spectroscopy. Nanoscience is the study of unbelievably small particles while spectroscopy is the study of the interaction of light and matter. We use chemical synthesis to make very small gold and silver nanoparticles that we can use for spectroscopy. Because of their small size, these nanoparticles interact with light and can be used for the sensitive detection of contaminants, explosives, artist's dyes, and many other chemical species of interest. A high school student could work on studying the interaction between hydrogels and small gold nanoparticles. The student will become proficient in the synthesis of gold nanoparticles and they will mix these nanoparticles with commercially available hydrogels to answer a few basic questions, such as: Are the nanoparticles stable in the presence of the hydrogel? Do the nanoparticles enter the hydrogel? Can the nanoparticles be rinsed out of the hydrogel? Can the nanoparticles be centrifuged into the hydrogel? The student will learn how to work in a research group, they will learn chemical synthesis, and several ways of characterizing the nanoparticle substrates they make.

CHEM-2: Mutations of the BAFF-R Receptor Protein

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Monica Lares, Department of Chemistry

Project Description:

Aptamers are molecules that can deliver therapeutic reagents to directed cells in order to knockdown targeted cancer genes. This would prevent the cell from multiplying and dividing-thus potentially stopping the spread of cancer. Aptamers can be made from DNA or RNA and are capable of binding a specific protein target with high specificity and affinity. The majority of data available regarding RNA:protein interactions involve ribosomal, messenger, and transfer RNA. The knowledge of the chemistry involved in the interactions between RNA aptamers and their protein targets is limited and insufficient. Without this knowledge, aptamers continue to have suboptimal designs leading to limited utilization in cell-specific delivery.

Our lab is interested in determining dissociation constants in order to determine the specificity and efficiency of binding between the BAFF-R protein and its RNA aptamer. We plan to mutate amino acids believed to be critical for binding the RNA aptamer. Gel shift assays can be carried out, a dissociation constant (Kd) calculated and compared to values obtained with the wild type protein. An increase in the Kd value would indicate that more protein is needed to bind half of our RNA aptamer molecules. This would suggest that the mutated amino acid played a role in the binding of the RNA aptamer. The contribution of the proposed research will provide the molecular details of the interactions between BAFF-R and its RNA Aptamer. This contribution will be significant because it will describe one of the few molecular descriptions on interactions between a RNA aptamer and its target. This will allow for advancement of the field of aptamer-based therapeutics not just in targeted cancer therapy, but in all diseases that could benefit from the targeted delivery of therapeutic reagents provided by aptamers.

Computer Science (2 projects)

CS-1: Investigating Pseudo-Random Number Generator Test Independence

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Gondree, Department of Computer Science

Project Description:

Secure communication cannot happen without secret data in the form of keys, initialization vectors, and nonces. The ability to generate unguessable, "random-looking" data remains a challenge today. Patterns in this data have, historically, led to major compromises in secret communication. The tools solving this problem are secure pseudo-random number generators (PRNGs). PRNG weaknesses, however, continue to be a source of exploitable flaws in software and hardware. There are two frameworks for measuring the effectiveness of PRNGs: (i) a beautiful mathematical theory which, sadly, fails to characterize a majority of PRNGs used in practice; and (ii) a disorganized set of empirical tools drawing from statistical hypothesis testing which, sadly, have not been studied or characterized well. This project investigates this latter approach (ii), using PRNG testing software: NIST's STS, U01, Diehard, Dieharder, etc.

An open problem is how to evaluate the independence of PRNG tests. When a test concludes something (like, "this PRNG looks random"), it may be wrong. When one hundred different tests agree, one expects to have higher confidence in that conclusion; however, if those tests are not independent, then 100 tests may not be superior to one test. Understanding independence is an important step toward interpreting a test result. This project would adopt a methodology previously proposed by Sys et al for independence evaluation, reproducing and expanding their analysis. The best match is with a student who enjoys statistics/probability and is interested in building skills with Python and Unix.

CS-2: Exploring the Creative Affordances of Nintendo Labo

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anamary Leal, Department of Computer Science

Project Description:

Nintendo Labo is a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) toolkit that guides users to build cardboard accessories to their gaming console, Nintendo Switch; users supposedly can turn cardboard and the Switch into fishing poles, robots, machines, pianos and beyond. At first glance, this toolkit supports creative endeavors with programming and craft, and may be an influential tool in Computer Science, Craft, and in Maker culture/DIY culture as well. What kind of expressive power does Labo provide in terms of programming and creativity, and what are some of the implications for designing similar kinds of craft-technology toolkits?

The student will study and create using the Nintendo Switch and Labo toolkit, reporting what the system affords in terms of creativity, and what have makers, designers, hackers, and artisans have done with the toolkit thus far. The student will then research similar kinds of toolkits, and finally report the kinds of creative affordances in Labo. The results will be turned into a submission to a Human-Computer Interaction research conference.

Engineering Science (1 project)

ES-1: Building Environment-Aware Robots

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sudhir Shrestha, Department of Engineering Science

Project Description:

TStudents will build small robots from kits and use chemical sensors to add environmental awareness. The robots will perform specific tasks based on camera and sensor inputs. Technologies such as sensor fusion, image recognition, and machine learning will be used to analyze the sensor inputs and to provide environmental awareness to the robots. The students will work with Arduino microcontrollers, sensors, small cameras, 3D printers, and electronic circuits. They will explore Arduino programming, robotics, sensor fusion, image recognition, and machine learning. In addition, this project aims to build the students' research skills, problem solving skills, information organizing skills, presentation skills, and the knowledge of engineering ethics. They will also attend seminars and group discussions. This project is open to all students interested in learning new technologies.

Kinesiology (1 project)

KIN-1: The Effects of Altering the Co-activation Ratio of the Agonist and Antagonist Muscle Groups on Skeletal Muscle Motor Recruitment Pattern for Rehabilitation

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Büaut;lent Söaut;kmen, Department of Kinesiology

Project Description:

The method used in rehabilitation in a physical therapy setting is crucial to the patient's recovery from injury. The traditional approach to rehabilitation in physical therapy involves increasing range of motion to promote movement, reduce pain, increase skeletal muscle function, and prevent disability. Improving skeletal muscle function requires single- and multi-joint functional exercise that targets neuromuscular adaptations. With injury, certain muscle groups atrophy significantly more than other muscle groups. Non-atrophied and antagonist muscle groups then dominate the movement of that joint, which might further extend the rehabilitation process. Because of this differential in muscle recruitment, our research asks whether we could manipulate muscle action prior to functional rehabilitation exercise and improve the firing or skeletal muscle recruitment of atrophied muscle.

With the current body of knowledge regarding antagonist compensation, we hypothesize that pre-fatiguing the antagonist muscle group will improve the motor unit firing rate of agonist muscle and speed up rehabilitation of affected muscle groups. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of pre-fatigued antagonist muscle groups on agonist motor unit recruitment patterns in subjects. A secondary research focus seeks to answer how decreasing hamstring muscle compensation affects the co-activation ratio of quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups.

Nursing (1 project)

NURS-1: Do Newer Generation Football Helmets Decrease Concussion Rates in High School Football Athletes?

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tammy Brunk, Department of Nursing

Project Description:

My passion as a nurse researcher is to evaluate the existing evidence in the literature, perform pilot projects to see what interventions can be taken to improve teen health. This summer project will include performing a current literature search on existing evidence on concussion rates in high school football and to locate any evidence that new helmets provide in regard to concussion rates for high school football players. The project will also include creating a grid to collect data and certain variables that can help to evaluate what impact newer safety football helmets provide.

I was a SHIP mentor last summer and enjoyed it immensely. I think this project with be very interesting to High School student I will work with.