Students, faculty showcase summer research projects in virtual presentations

Linguistics major Bren Yaghmour was part of the Summer Impact Project team that used a special ultrasound machine to track the tongue's movements in people learning a new language.

Undergraduate and graduate students from George Mason University presented the results of their summer multidisciplinary research and creative projects on Aug. 5-6 in a virtual celebration of student scholarship.

Videos created by the students about their research projects can be viewed on the Celebration of Student Scholarship and Impact website. A total of 98 students participated either individually or in groups, and they created 60 video presentations.

The celebration highlights Mason’s emphasis on ensuring students have research opportunities. Many of the students conducted their research through the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research’s (OSCAR) Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.

Other students participated in a Summer Team Impact Project (STIP).

Julia Sullivan Burns, Mason Impact student support specialist, said the virtual celebration is a way to showcase the wide variety of summer research projects in which Mason students were involved.

Biology major Louise Singer studied the microbiome of snails.

“Intellectual curiosity is one of the greatest assets we have as human beings,” Burns said. One way Mason students get to satisfy their curiosity is by engaging in research. Every chance we have to display their research and intellectual curiosity is a chance to validate the work these students have done.”

Three projects were declared the Summer 2021 Top Presentations.

Louise Singer, a senior biology major, used her OSCAR funding to examine snails from two different lakes in Fairfax County. Her video presentation “Analyzing the Microbiome of Avian Schistosomiasis Vector Gyraulus Parvus” can be viewed here.

“My project was looking at how much of an influence location has on the microbiome of snails,” Singer said. “It was great that people valued my research enough to fund it.”

Singer said that it was meaningful to design and execute her own research project.

“The idea that people could be interested in it is exciting,” she said.

Faculty members Vincent Chanethom and Harim Kwon oversaw a Summer Team Impact Grant project using ultrasound to analyze tongue movements when English speakers learn French. The student team helped build and populate a linguistic corpus website aimed at furthering our understanding of how tongue movements affect accents. The presentation can be viewed here.

Hannah Brennan, a senior English major concentrating in linguistics, said participating in the linguistics corpus research project was fun, especially learning to use the ultrasound machine and helping collect data.

“I was giddy the whole summer,” she said. Brennan worked with fellow students Domi Hannon, Bren Yaghmour and Jaxon Myers on the project.

Kwon said she was proud of the students who helped conduct research over the summer.

“You can see it in their videos how much fun they are having,” said Kwon, an assistant professor of linguistics, “and how motivated they are.”

Another of the top presentations was by Casper Brooks who was experimenting with web-based storytelling under the guidance of English professor Jessica Hurley.

For the research project, Brooks focused on apocalyptic trauma by creating a narrative framework and a website for the lead character’s organization, The Aspera Group. You can see the presentation here.