David Youssef-Undergraduate Research

For my research project, I tested the effect of a glaucoma drug, Latanoprost, on the collagen content of corneas in order to access the change in biomechanical properties of the cornea. This involved culturing corneas in one of two mediums, a control without the drug and a treatment medium with the drug. The corneas were cultured for 24 hours. After culture, the cornea samples were uniformly cut, homogenized, and put through a series of reactions to produce a mixture whose color reflected the concentration of collagen. After putting the samples through the spectrometer, the relative amounts of collagen were determined for the two treatment groups.

My data in this project matched my hypothesis that the treated corneas would have less collagen than the untreated corneas. However, this result is not statistically significant, so nothing can be concluded about the effect of the drug on corneal collagen content. With this conclusion, I learned a lot about how hard it is to conduct research. One may believe that they have considered all of the possibilities and factors in an experiment, but find that there was something they missed. Going into this project, I thought the ideas and concepts involved were interesting but not as much as other things I have learned about. As I would troubleshoot through the problems I encountered, I found it harder to stay motivated to do so because I wasn’t in love with what I was doing. I learned that it is really difficult to conduct a good research study if you are not completely invested because it needs a person’s all in order to succeed.

As I said in the previous response, I found out that I wasn’t as interested in ocular mechanics as I had thought. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad field to get into, it just means that I need to work in a field that I find more interesting in order to be happier and succeed. I have already made changes in order to do so. I have always known I was interested in neuroscience and how it can be augmented and treated using engineering but wasn’t aware that there was a laboratory on campus that did so until I was completing this project. After completing it, I told my principal investigator of the ocular mechanics lab that I was planning on moving on and she was very understanding. I contacted the professor of the neuroscience laboratory and he accepted me into his lab. In a broader sense, this project affected how I view my trajectory. I learned that I need to be having relevant experiences in order to be more successful and work in the field I hope to work in in the future. I also learned what motivates me and that I am most successful when I am working on these things.

Beam Profile Monitoring on the Proton Synchrotron Particle Accelerator Using an Arduino Yún

Summer Research

What?

This summer, I worked within The Ohio State University ATLAS group under the mentorship of our head of engineering, Dr. Shane Smith, on the development a data acquisition system for beam profile monitoring on the Proton Synchrotron particle accelerator at CERN. That probably makes no sense to anyone who has never dealt with particle accelerator before.  I know it didn’t to me when I was first working on developing this project with Prof. Kagan and Dr. Smith. Beam profile monitoring (BPM) is the process of detecting the amount of radiation passing through an area in some period of time. In the case of this project, I had to design a system that would be connected to a thin foil detector with between 40 and 50 square regions that would be placed in the beam in front or behind of an object being irradiated. Each square region generates a current on the scale of pico-Amperes. The system I designed, integrated these currents over the duration of a single spill (the period where particles are bombarding the device) from the particle accelerator, about 400 ms in this case. This integration gave a usable voltage that was scaled, inverted, buffered, and read by an analog-to-digital converter connected to an Arduino Yún. The Arduino Yún controlled the entire system from determining when integration was to occur, to what channel to read the voltage from, to determining when to collect data based on input signals. It also collected and sent all data out over the Internet to servers operated by CERN for analysis and display. Currently two BPM data acquisition systems are at CERN, connected to their respective sensors and reading data out. Two more are ready to ship but are being held back until six more are manufactured so that they all can be sent at once in time for the beginning of experiments in Spring.

A picture of the internal workings of the BPM data acquisition system that I created for CERN this summer.

A picture of the internal workings of the BPM data acquisition system that I created for CERN this summer.

The first BPM data acquisition system manufactured a few minutes before it was packed for shipping.

The first BPM data acquisition system manufactured a few minutes before it was packed for shipping.

Data from the PS particle accelerator being read out from BPM data acquisition system 1.

Data from the PS particle accelerator being read out from BPM data acquisition system 1.

In addition to working on the BPM data acquisition system, I assisted in the repair of a pulsed ruby laser power supply operated by my research group. I assisted on a variety of other projects in the lab from a robotic test system for diamonds that has yet to be finished to manufacturing a variety of mechanical parts to repair various items around our lab.

So What?

I worked over the entire in a research lab. I went in when I woke up and went home when I felt that I could not accomplish anymore in lab. Most of my time in lab was spent researching parts or topics which I had not covered in classes. In addition to that, I often had to request samples of parts and build test circuits to determine if what I was designing would work. I used every researcher in the group as a resource at least once a week. I ended up performing the same work as many of the graduate students in the physics department working on designing experiments. But unlike the graduate students, I was an electrical engineer working with two full-time electrical engineer staff members and a full-time technician.  We were a group of people who knew how to design circuits and how to help others design them. On an almost weekly basis, we had graduate students from other groups coming into our lab asking for help on their research. Whether it was a simple op amp circuit or fixing a complex piece of electrical hardware, every one in our lab helped solve problems for the entire department. Of course, when we had questions about physics, we ended up talking to whatever physicist we could find nearby. And seeing as our understanding of physics was more focused on the application than the theory, this was a fairly common occurrence. I learned how to find the resources I needed to solve my technical problems. I became for the summer, essentially a member of research staff. I learned that I thrived in this environment. And I decided that I would go to graduate school.

Now What?

I am currently working, albeit slowly, on designing a test system for a diamond amplifier created by the two full-time electrical engineers in my research group. While I haven’t had as much time this semester to work on my research as I would have preferred, I have made slow but steady progress on getting the remaining BPM data acquisition systems. I currently oversee two research assistants working on manufacturing the systems for CERN. I plan on applying to graduate schools next fall after I either continue research next summer or get an engineering internship.

 

Vascularization of Tissue Engineered Bone Grafts

What?

From May-August of 2014 I spent my time as an undergraduate research assistant in the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies in Dr. David Dean’s lab.  The laboratory’s mission focuses on the creation of tissue engineered bone grafts through 3D printing. My work aims to test new methods of pre-vascularizing these bone grafts using a fibrin hydrogel seeded with stem cells, thereby inducing angiogenesis of new vasculature and anastomosis with host vasculature and ideally creating a more functional bone graft. What I really love about the Dean lab is the level of involvement that undergraduates have in their projects. In my projected, I have an active role from start to finish. I search the literature and determine methods, discuss with collaborators across the globe,  plan my experiments, execute my experiments, analyze the data, and even work to publish the results.

So What?

Research has taught me resilience and patience above all. The ability to independently work to create novel solutions to difficult problems has been invaluable to my personal growth. Class is really good at teaching you to find “the right answer”, but research teaches you to be an independent thinker, to go out in the world and use every skill at your disposal to hammer out a solution to life’s unsolved problems. In a world overflowing with college grads and never enough spots to put them, I think this is the quality that distinguishes you from the masses. After graduation everyone can hold up a degree and a GPA, but I can say that I contributed something to this world through my work.

Now What?

I hope to continue my education in veterinary school following the completion of my undergrad. Beyond the animal experience my research has allowed me, I believe my research makes me a unique candidate for future veterinary work. One of the biggest challenges I faced in previous veterinary internships was the inability of families to pay for their animal’s medical care. A human receives medical care regardless of whether or not they can pay, but many animals are euthanized simply for lack of funds. I believe that my experiences in research and engineering help me to not just shrug it off, but to continually ask, “what can I do to find a solution?”. My research has encouraged me to consider completing a senior thesis and even to pursue a PhD program in graduate school.

Throughout my research project I was able to perform surgeries on mice with the future possibility of working on larger animal models. These surgeries have allowed numerous hours of both animal and veterinary experience required for the common vet school application. Additionally, in my research I spend the vast majority of my time in meetings, discussing strategy and new ideas and making sure to go through all the proper approval channels. If there were such a thing as logging “communication hours”, I could set a new record. If I chose not to enter the veterinary world, I now have significant experience in experimental design, execution, the fundamental principles of tissue engineering, and plenty of essay writing for funding. In order to complete my time in research for which I used my STEP funding, I also left behind my family and friends and gave up my summer break to work 2000 miles away in a lab. Surely this displays a certain resiliency in character. All in all, a research laboratory is not where I hope to end up. However, I believe I have taken many valuable skills away from this experience.

 

 

Megan Posukonis- Biomedical Engineering 2016

 

Music and Tech in the City of London

What?

I never imagined I’d travel across an ocean and to another country for my STEP experience, but that’s exactly what I did.  In July 2014, I attended NIME – that is, New Interfaces for Musical Expression – in London, England.  NIME is an annual conference that unites academics, students, inventors, artists, musicians, engineers – an incredible variety of people from all different disciplines  – to explore how people express and interact with music.

I first heard about the conference after attending a lecture at OSU by Dr. Rebecca Fiebrink, an OSU alumna-now-professor who earned dual degrees in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) and Music.  As a CSE major, I’m interested in combining music and technology for assistive projects in areas such as music therapy, healthcare, and education.  Dr. Fiebrink’s background and led me to sit in on her lecture and to later explore the research she has done – and the conferences she had attended. Consequentially I discovered NIME. Midway through the year, I was excited to hear that Dr. Fiebrink had moved to the very university that was hosting NIME in 2014. I soon found myself contacting her and developing my STEP proposal with the intention of attending NIME, and by May of 2014, I was booked for a flight to London.

Goldsmiths Music Studios

NIME was held at Goldsmiths College, University of London, which is well known for its music, arts, and media programs. The conference consisted of paper, poster, and demonstration sessions during the day, interspersed with performances in the afternoons and evenings.  Unlike most of the attendees, I was simply an observer, rather than a presenter or a well-established academic.  However, I do not say this with disappointment.  Attending just as I was, a curious undergraduate who happened to find her way to NIME, allowed more freedom to explore and reflect.  Wherever I went, my small black notebook was at my side, ready for my overzealous writing hand to jot down some important observation or fleeting amusement.

The conference had everything.  Topics included, collaborative music, motion and sensing, instrument design, and many others. The paper sessions were more academic in nature, whereas the demos and displays were often highly interactive.  In the same day, I could listen to a speaker from Stanford present on manipulating sounds with movement, then try my hand at something similar in nature by playing a modified version of Guitar Hero. And in the process of floating from room to room, my observer eyes wide with excitement, I met people from all different academic backgrounds and countries, each of whom had unique perspectives on music, technology, and life.

City of London Baglione

Aside from the conference, I got the chance to explore an incredible city.  Finding my wandering traveler’s feet to be the best mode of transportation (after the London rail system, of course), I walked myself from London Bridge to St. Paul’s cathedral, along the Thames, to the Globe Theater, and through the Tate Museum of Modern Art. I ventured into coffee shops and through the charming streets of SoHo.  I journeyed to Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral, and Covent Garden Market.  I even got to spend a day in the English countryside with the kindest relatives of a family friend.  I had a taste of London culture, and it was truly an experience.  By the time I returned to the U.S. just a week later, my shoes were marked with travelers’ miles and my notebook and head were bursting with ideas.

So What?

I went to NIME with the impression that I already knew what music was.  But from day one, the conference challenged me to rethink the way I heard (and saw and felt) music.  As I wove my way through countless displays, demonstrations, and paper and poster sessions, I became a part of a world where sound, movement, and creativity were one entity.  And no, I didn’t think all of it was music.  Yes, I found some sounds and performances harsh, sporadic, or simply “ugly” to my ears.  Others I found to be absolutely beautiful.  I also discovered that I tend to like the sound of music played on more “traditional”- sounding instruments (ones made of wood or brass or that have strings) rather than music generated on a computer (quite ironic, yes, for a student of computer science).

But music wasn’t the half of what I learned.  Through interacting with so many different people, I gained insight into how the rest of the world conducts itself in academics, politics, and many other realms.  One day I ate dinner with a student from New Zealand who had done his graduate studies in Japan and had experience with robotic musical instruments (as well as a keen knowledge of American politics). Another day I had a conversation with a man from the Finland about his music therapy research.

Why does all of this matter?  Because in one short week, I got to experience the world of academia in the context of subjects about which I am passionate – music, technology, and engineering.  And now I have a “game plan” for how to achieve my own research and personal goals in those fields.

Now What?

NIME has caused me to reflect deeply on what I want to do in my graduate studies and where I want to pursue them.  The experiences of that week in London that affected me the most were those that bridged the gap between music and people – specifically, how music and people’s thoughts and emotions link together. Having participated a previous summer research experience in Human-Computer Interaction, I feel like NIME reaffirmed that yes, I really do want to focus on the “human element” of technology in my graduate studies and in my life.

I want to contribute to the growth of music and technology in music therapy, healthcare, and educational settings. NIME really helped me to expand my network so that I can move toward this goal.  During the week I interacted with several professors from U.S. institutions who seemed very receptive of my reasons for attending NIME and who may, in the future, offer the opportunity to pursue one of their graduate studies programs.  If not for the STEP program, I may never have met these professors, nor seen all the ways in which music and technology can work to enrich the human experience.

I remember sitting in on a paper discussion about music therapy and dementia patients and thinking, “I can’t wait until I can contribute something to this!”  Thanks to STEP and NIME, I’m well on my way to doing so.

For more on music and tech and what I did at NIME, follow me on my blog: http://techiegonemusical.wordpress.com

and on Twitter: @TechGoneMusical

Ocular Biomechanics Research

What?

The biomechanical properties of the posterior sclera are thought to be important in glaucoma susceptibility. Assessment of the posterior sclera biomechanics is currently unavailable In vivo but methods are being developed to characterize the biomechanical properties of the anterior portion of the eye. The objective of this study was to characterize the regional dynamic viscoelastic properties of porcine sclera to examine possible correlation between anterior and posterior sclera. Scleral strips were excised from the temporal region of the anterior and posterior portions of 16 porcine eyes. The scleral strips were tested in a humidity chamber at approximately 35° C. A cyclic strain was applied to the strips and the cyclic stress output was recorded. A ramp test was then conducted. The complex modulus of the anterior and posterior scleral were 2.2±1.7 and 0.5±0.5 MPa, the secant modulus at 1% were 1.63±1.46 and 0.48±0.36 MPa, and the dynamic viscosity were 0.06±0.04 and 0.01±0.03, respectively. However, a correlation between the anterior and posterior sclera has not been established. The anterior porcine sclera appeared to be stiffer than the posterior sclera, which was consistent with previous findings. The relationship between sclera collagen content and biomechanical properties will be investigated in future studies.

So What? 

Throughout this experience, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and was challenged to develop skills to be a good researcher. I lost my fear to ask questions, developed careful, rigorous, and algorithmic thinking from conducting experiments, and regained my wonder for how complicated the world is. In addition, I learned that though research is incredibly important to conduct the knowledge of the human race, it is not something that I would prefer to make a career out of conducting research.

Now What? 

This opportunity has given me an experience that has shaped how I view the academic world. Conducting research has opened my mind to the complexity of the world and how to go about solving problems that there is truly no answer in a textbook or in the literature.

Academically, I am now more motivated to learn relevant material and soak up as much knowledge as I can so I am better able to design experiments that are effective and insightful with respect to the data gathered. Personally, I still have the same goals of being a physician; however, I am now equipped with a better understanding of how clinical questions and the advancement of patient care is advanced through the frontlines of research. I still have the same life goal of becoming a physician to help people live healthy lives; however, now I have more passion and desire as a result of understanding how the clinical knowledge is advanced through research.

 

 

 

 

 

Undergraduate Research Experience

What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

The STEP experience that I chose to pursue this summer was undergraduate research.  I spent this past summer in Columbus working with Dr. Onate’s research team in the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.  I had formally joined the research team during the end of winter, but wasn’t working on my own project until this past summer.  Initially, I had thought that I was going to be working on a project that had already been established within the lab – brain plastic changes after undergoing a neuromuscular ACL tear.  However, after testing the men’s football team in May, I was given an entirely novel project.

One of the functional tests that we administer to the athletes assesses core stability and upper extremity power through a medicine ball task.  The players were tasked with obtaining as many med ball wall hits that they could in a 30-second interval while an iPod program – the LevelBelt – recorded their movement in the coronal and sagittal planes.  These micro-tilts were stored within the program and ideally would show a link between the subject’s core stability and their performance in the test; however, the data had never been looked at nor were there any variables established that linked the two.

My goal for this project was to quantify the pelvic control that a player has over their body but also to bridge this gap that exists in the literature between the core and finer extremity control.  I spent this past summer analyzing this data and determining variables from the data that can help answer these questions.  Having no prior data to base my analysis on, I chose to look at a kinematic definition of stability; less perturbation of the pelvic girdle would result in greater upper extremity power.  Using a variety of programs, I found that my data agreed with my hypothesis to the tune of an R= 0.55.

Uncovering something on your own is always exciting, but uncovering something that can have implications in the future training of athletes is indescribable.  This link between a stronger core and improved functional performance has been agreed upon by scientists and athletic trainers, but the ways to functionally train the core has been disputed.  If this kinematic link can be confirmed, athletes of all sports can benefit from the added stability it can bring.

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

Spending a summer doing research wasn’t something that was new to me.  I had spent the previous summer in Columbus conducting research as well.  However, this summer really affirmed the fact that the path that I am on is the right one for me.  The previous summer I had worked in a small chemistry lab in order to gain exposure to the lab environment, but I didn’t stop to consider how it would aid my career path.

After another year in school, I think I fully realized exactly what I wanted to do later in life and put my full effort into realizing that.  The first step was getting involved in research that allowed me to do so.  I think I am set on going to medical school and specializing in orthopedics/sports medicine and spending a summer in a lab that reinforces this was extremely beneficial.

Even though that I was solely responsible for one project during the summer, I was still able to gain exposure to the other aspects of the lab through team projects and testing.  I fully enjoy the topics that we discuss and ways in which we going about getting answers.  Finally, this research lab has given me exposure to working with human patients.  This aspect has been invaluable as it has really prepared me for what I will be experiencing during my path to become a doctor.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

As stated earlier, the STEP experience this past summer has reconfirmed my interests and career goals.  I’m hoping that my summer project can act as a stepping stone for larger projects my next two years as an undergraduate and perhaps even beyond that.  I’m hoping to complete a research thesis with this lab during my senior year, and my project has helped me get on the path to becoming the doctor that I want to be.  I’m happy that The Ohio State University has provided this opportunity for students to realize their goals, and I hope that future classes find it as helpful as I have.

 

 

 

STEP Undergrad Research Reflection

What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

Thanks to STEP, I was able to find a worthwhile method to apply the skills I learned in my classes.  This summer, I remained on OSU’s main campus for the summer term and did research with Dr. Mokashi, who was my professor for Statics and Dynamics, and another graduate student, and our primary focus was structural analysis.  More specifically, we studied damage detection and cohesive zone laws using a beam model.  Under the supervision of the grad student, I received different parameters to plug into a MATLAB code designed to graph different relationships, such as Energy vs. Moment.  I had to analyze each parameter and understand what each one meant and how it affected the results when the beam modes experienced loading.  For example, I had to understand how crack length affected the moment produced by the minimum and maximum forces.  As time went on, I earned more responsibilities and even got to analyze the beam being unloaded and then reloaded.  I graphed the results and reported them to the grad student, who in turn showed them to Dr. Mokashi.

 

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

Though relatively straightforward, the experience was worthwhile.  I learned a god deal about new and interesting topics such as cohesive zones and J-Integrals.  I also got to further advance my skills in coding, which is a key attribute in the engineering world.  I already had a good relationship with Dr. Mokashi through having classes with him, but this experience allowed me to know him better on a personal level.  This could prove beneficial for the future in case I need references, letters of recommendation, and such. Furthermore, it drives home the point that good relationships with faculty members can have long-term benefits.  I also observed that I was adaptable to new work environments and able to work well independently, while also being able to reach out for help when it was needed.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

As previously stated, this research experience allowed me to hone my skills in coding, understand new engineering concepts, and build good relationships with faculty members.  Another positive effect this STEP experience will have is that it will open the doors for future job opportunities.  I did not land an internship last year and was not sure what to do from there.  Thankfully,  STEP helped show me a way to use what I learned and experience a taste of how it is actually used in the world.  This extra bit of knowledge will be beneficial, as it could be the deciding factor in whether or not I land an internship.  In addition to career opportunities, my STEP experience will assist me in my year as an RA.  I have a number of second-year residents, and one program I wanted to put on was something STEP-related.  I wanted to share my experience with others and let them see how great of an opportunity STEP is.  I am a firm believer in paying it forward, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.