Mason’s ‘Emerging Researchers’ have arrived

From elegant 3-D computer images to headline-grabbing health care policy to innovative special education learning strategies, George Mason University’s Emerging Researcher/Scholar/Creator Awards show the depth of meaningful research across the university.

The 2015 winners are Sheri Berkeley of the College of Education and Human Development, Jyh-Ming Lien of the Volgenau School of Engineering, and Tony Yang of the College of Health and Human Services.

Provost S. David Wu hosted a celebration this spring for the 2015 award winners, who were selected by a committee of University Professors. The Emerging Researcher/Scholar/Creator Award winners must be within 10 years of receiving their terminal degree and have garnered international and national attention for their work. They each receive $5,000.

“These awards highlight the wealth of talent at George Mason University, and are considered a high university honor,” said Associate Vice President for Research Peter Barcher, who chairs the award committee and also is the associate dean for research in the College of Education and Human Development. “Mason researchers are making contributions at the leading edge of their fields, which have a huge impact in basic and translational research.”

Special Education Learning Strategies

Sheri Berkeley was a special education teacher in public K-12 schools before becoming a professor.

“During that time, I worked with many students who struggled to learn because of their disability,” said Berkeley, who is now an associate professor in the Division of Special Education and disAbility Research. “The desire to help students like them drives my research agenda.”

Berkeley currently is leading a project funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate how students with learning disabilities self-regulate their learning when they’re working on complex assignments such as creating video games about renewable energy.

Her work could change the way K-12 students are taught how to tackle multifaceted projects.

“In addition, because the project is cross-disciplinary, it is spurring conversation across multiple fields of study and providing a rich learning environment for doctoral students who are gaining valuable research experience on the project,” she said.


Collapsible Worlds

Jyh-Ming Lien is with the Department of Computer Science and more specifically the Motion and Shape Computing Group in the Autonomous Robotics Laboratory.  

He creates elegant, hypnotizing and complex 3-D computer models that seem to fold and unfold effortlessly. Examples can be found at this link.

“Like the rest of human race, I like to make and appreciate visually appealing objects,” Lien said. “I simply followed my instinct. If I was not in computational science working on topics related to shape and motion, I would have been in architecture design.”

His recent work provides the underpinnings of a more compact daily life, from collapsible cups to folding furniture. Practical results of 3-D modeling include cars designed to collapse to protect passengers during collisions, bicycles that compactly fold for transport, surgical instruments entering the body in a compact size to minimize the surgical site opening, and satellite antenna umbrellas going into space tiny but expanding to full size in orbit.

Impactful Heath Care Policy

Lawyer turned health policy researcher Tony Yang has given insight into topics ranging from vaccinations to physician-assisted suicide. He reaches across disciplines and has teamed with researchers from the College of Science’s Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science to pursue region-specific health care research.

“It's great to see Mason intentionally encourages faculty members across units to form multidisciplinary teams and pursue innovative research directions,” said the Department of Health Administration and Policy associate professor.

His research published in 2015 showed that parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated are likely to be well educated, wealthy and white. Yang’s work could help fine-tune public health policies and educational outreach.