Summer High School Internship Program -- 2019 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, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Science, Nursing. and Physics.

Astronomy (1 project)

ASTR-1: Eclipse Megamovie: Exploring the Dynamic Sun Using 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Photographs

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

Project Description:

When the Sun is blocked completely by the moon in a total solar eclipse, the shadow that the moon casts across Earth is called “the path of totality.” While in this path, the Sun’s dim atmosphere can be seen and photographed. In 2017, thousands of people across the United States went to the “path of totality” for the August Total Solar Eclipse. Volunteers photographed the Sun's atmosphere, e.g. the solar chromosphere and corona. Over 50,000 images were uploaded by over 1,900 volunteers. The selected SHIP intern will assist in learning more about the Sun’s chromosphere and corona by running python code, making videos, researching plasma waves, calculating coronal brightness, and participating in team meetings with colleagues at Sonoma State University, University of California, Berkeley, and Google.

Biology (2 projects)

BIO-1: Adipose derived hormones (adipokines) in elephant seals

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Crocker, Department of Biology

Project Description:

There is a growing body of biomedical studies that show that subcutaneous fat (adipose) is an important endocrine tissue, producing hormones (adipokines) that help regulate metabolism, the immune system and the gonads. However, the function and importance of adipokines are largely unstudied in wildlife. Many studies in wildlife conservation have shown that fat reserves influence whether animals reproduce and the way they mount immune responses to infection, but the underlying mechanisms are not understood. My lab is performing an Office of Naval Research funded study to understand how blubber impacts health and survival of marine mammals by studying the expression and function of adipokines in elephant seals. The student intern will participate in field work, where we take blubber biopsies and blood samples from wild northern elephant seals and learn laboratory techniques for measuring adipokines, sex hormones and immune markers including enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). The student will learn techniques for studying gene expression in tissue using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). We will explore changes in blubber gene expression and plasma adipokine concentrations over long natural fasts in seals and look for associations with immune function and sex hormones.

BIO-2: The Effect of Disease and Fire Fuel Loads on Fire Intensity in Sonoma County Oak-woodlands

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lisa Bentley, Department of Biology

Project Description:

The goal of this research project is to use a large scale and long-term plot network in eastern Sonoma County to determine the ecological impacts of an exotic pathogen (Phytophthora ramorum) and wildfire on oak-woodland forest communities. We will address the following questions: 1) Do plots with higher inoculum loads and disease prevalence have greater pre-fire fuel loads? 2) Do plots with greater mortality due to disease have greater burn severity?; and 3) How do disease and wildfire restructure community composition and vegetation recovery post-fire?

We are looking for someone to help us with field measurements. At each plot the SHIP student will assist a graduate student with measurements of: 1) fire fuel loads, 2) disease prevalence, 3) fire severity, 4) tree growth, mortality, and survival of the three most abundant host species, Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), California Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii), and California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica), and 5) microclimate. To make these measurements, we will use established forestry protocols and previous plot survey protocols to enable accurate comparisons pre- and post-fire. To complete this work you must be comfortable hiking (sometimes across difficult terrain), being outside for extended periods of time, and working as part of a team.

Chemistry (1 project)

CHEM-1: Mutations of the BAFF-R RNA Aptamer

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 nucleotides believed to be critical for binding between the RNA aptamer and BAFF-R protein. Gel shift assays can be carried out, a dissociation constant (Kd) calculated and compared to values obtained with the wild type RNA aptamer. 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 nucleotide played a role in the binding of the protein. 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: 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 continue ongoing undergrad student work studying the Nintendo 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.

CS-2: An Exploration of Cosplay/Craft Knowledge Transfer Online

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

Project Description:

Cosplay, or costume play, is an increasingly popular practice of replicating, designing and building clothing, props and beyond, inspired by popular media (books, games, movies, etc). Cosplay, rooted in craft, is a promising venue to bring participants into Science, Technology, Arts and Design. A would-be participant may want to learn some craft knowledge, like how to sew a jacket from the Avengers movie. But if they do not know anyone to teach them in-person, they may resort to seeking knowledge online, like social media. Social media is a different way of learning craft knowledge than learning in-person or in the classroom setting.

This student will continue ongoing social science investigations into how novices seek out cosplay knowledge through social media and its limitations. This may include designing technology that addresses the limitations directly. The results will be turned into a submission to a Human-Computer Interaction research conference.

Engineering Science (3 projects)

ES-1: Gesture Controlled Robotic Arm

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

Project Description:

This project will convert an existing rigid robotic arm with five degrees of freedom into a gesture controlled mobile arm. Such an arm can be used as an assistive robot to help people with disabilities. Students will help develop a prototype wireless gesture controller with an accelerometer and a gyroscope, add a mobile base to the arm, and program the controller and the base. Students will work with microcontrollers, sensors, motors, 3D printers, and electronic circuits. Students will learn about research, engineering problem solving, effective presentation, and engineering ethics. They will also attend seminars and group discussions. This project is open to all students interested in learning about engineering design.

ES-2: The World Seen by an Antenna

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mohamed Salem, Department of Engineering Science

Project Description:

The electromagnetic spectrum includes all types of radiating electromagnetic waves. Our eyes have evolved to respond to a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which we call "visible light". The remaining parts of the spectrum are mostly beyond our direct sensory experience. However, we can use antennas to sense a large part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which we call "radio waves".

In this project, you will use an antenna connected to an actuator, a microcontroller, and a measurement instrument to construct an image of the world illuminated by radio waves and seen by the antenna. The wavelengths of the measured radio waves will replace the wavelengths of visible light to reveal a hidden aspect of our world that cannot be seen by our eyes, but can be seen by an antenna.

ES-3: A Different Radar Equation

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mohamed Salem, Department of Engineering Science

Project Description:

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than infrared waves. Radio waves are very widely used in everyday life, particularly in mobile communication, wireless computer networks, broadcasting, navigation systems, and many other technologies. When such waves travel between a transmitter and a receiver without obstacles in their path, one can determine how much power is transferred from the transmitter to the receiver using an equation called "The Radar Equation".

The radar equation does not apply when there are obstacles, such as in an indoors environment with walls and furniture, in the path of the radio waves. In this project, you will learn how to measure the power transmitted by Wi-Fi router located inside a building, and use the measurements to come up with your own power transmission equation.

Nursing (1 project)

NURS-1: Bullying in the Workplace: An Assessment of Prevalence in Nursing Clinical Experiences

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rachel Napoli, Department of Nursing

Project Description:

To evaluate the prevalence of workplace bullying nursing students are exposed to when completing required clinical rotations in pre-licensure nursing school curriculum and evaluate current literature related to possible interventions on behaviors or prevention of behaviors. The California Board of Registered Nursing requires specific clinical rotations as part of the curriculum for licensure as a registered nurse. Nursing students are educated in the classroom in theory related to the core content areas in nursing education. In addition, they complete clinical education experiences in these core content areas through application at the bedside, this application includes treatment and observation of actual patients in local clinical agencies along with role modeling by the nurses the students learn with in the clinical setting. This on-going research will be continued through the summer with continued survey analysis, possibly additional survey submissions, and development of further literature for publication.

Physics (1 project)

PHYS-1: Fabrication and Characterization of Titanium Dioxide Nanotubes

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

Project Description:

Nanoscience and nanotechnology has advanced very rapidly in the last two decades or so. The principal drive toward fabricating nanometer scaled materials lies in the promise of achieving unique properties and superior performance that the bulk counterparts do not possess. Nanostructured titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a particularly versatile material with many technological applications, such as solar cells, self-cleaning coatings and purification of water. The ability to control the nano-architectures of (TiO2) can therefore be expected to affect many of these technologies significantly.

In this project, we will be using a multi-step anodization method to fabricate vertically ordered (TiO2) nanotubes on titanium substrates. Such a method has proved to be cost effective and easy to scale up for different applications. We will then use the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in the Keck Microanalysis laboratory to investigate the morphology dependence of (TiO2) on the applied voltage, concentration of fluoride ions and deposition time. We wish to optimize such an electrochemical process in order to prepare extremely ordered (TiO2) networks.