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OSCAR Grant Assists in Capturing Data on the Next Generation of Mole Salamanders Wednesday, August 27,2014

OSCAR Grant Assists in Capturing Data on the Next Generation of Mole Salamanders

Under the guidance of New Century College professor Tom Wood, Fuerst secured two OSCAR grants to install equipment now in use at a vernal pool where hundreds of salamanders hatch each spring. The absence of fish make vernal pools attractive for amphibian reproduction. The pool was constructed in 2011, and in the year following its construction, Wood noted that, based on egg mass counts, more than 1,300 salamanders and frogs used the pool.

Seeing the pool for the first time as part of her freshman NCLC 103 Human Creativity: Science and Art course in spring 2013, Fuerst became interested in the species she observed at the pool and wanted to learn more about the mole salamanders. She applied for and was awarded OSCAR funding during the 2013-14 academic year, and this summer was able to compile a variety of data regarding the salamanders. The equipment enables Fuerst to monitor and observe the salamanders that visit the vernal pool to lay their eggs. She then observes the next generation of salamanders as they hatch and mature.

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Mason and OSCAR Shine at National Conference on Undergraduate Research Friday, August 15,2014

Mason and OSCAR Shine at National Conference on Undergraduate Research

The conference, which featured presentations from more than a dozen George Mason faculty members, provided a platform where research done by undergraduates could find its due recognition and where educators could discuss best practices that give undergraduates significant research opportunities.

“Participation in the [council] gives Mason an opportunity to help shape the national conversation about undergraduate research,” says Usher. Presentations by Mason faculty during the national conference included topics such as how federal work-study can be used to increase opportunities for students, and discussions on science and laboratory research best practices.

Presenters and presentations included:

  • The OSCAR Student Survey: Longitudinal Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes, presented by Stephanie Hazel, Usher and Amanda Anderson
  • Embedded Library Instruction in Undergraduate Research Classes: Assessing the Impact, presented by Patricia West, Dorothy Lockaby, Stephanie Hazel and Usher
  • Mentoring Undergraduate Students in Laboratory-Based Research: A Discussion of Best Practices, presented by Rebecca Jones and George Shields (Bucknell University)
  • SENCER Center for Innovation, Chesapeake Bay: Opportunities for Collaboration on Research and Curriculum Reform, presented by Thomas Wood
  • One Size Does NOT Fit All: Integrative Undergraduate Research and the Public Good, presented by Lesley Smith, Julie Owen, Pamela Garner and Duhita Mahatmya
  • Expanding Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Through Federal Work Study, presented by Denise Nazaire and Usher
  • Transforming A Research Project into a Resource in Undergraduate Science Teaching―The Case of a Field-Based Learning in Ecological Sustainability, presented by Changwoo Ahn
  • UNIV 495: An Interdisciplinary Research Seminar, presented by Rebecca Jones


The Students as Scholars initiative, an Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) program, supports undergraduate research at Mason. Through the work of Usher and an interdisciplinary team that helms OSCAR, Mason students receive more opportunities to participate in undergraduate research and more research-oriented classes are made available to them. “We emphasize the importance of giving all students access to undergraduate research and creative opportunities,” Usher says.

The Undergraduate Research Scholars Program supports 140 student researchers a year. Usher notes this makes it among the largest of all universities. More than 28 courses across the university, which have been designated as Research and Scholarship intensive, are designed to give undergraduates an authentic research experience.

The input with the council means that Mason continually has one of the largest research presences of any university. Forty Mason students presented at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in the spring, and at the annual Posters on the Hill event, Mason was the only university to feature more than one student poster.


OSCAR Excellence Award Winner Named to Bloomberg ‘Hall of Fame’ Wednesday, August 6,2014

OSCAR Excellence Award Winner Named to Bloomberg ‘Hall of Fame’

“It was an amazing day,” says Bal. “After all the work I put in over the past year and half, it was an honor to be recognized.”

The BAT is an aptitude test developed by the Bloomberg Institute that measures an individual’s ability to think critically on financial topics and is used by employers to evaluate potential employees. Bal’s top five score placed him in the 99th percentile in the BAT and earned him recognition in the test’s “Hall of Fame.”

Bal is also the first School of Management student to win an OSCAR Student Excellence award, which recognizes and rewards outstanding undergraduate students who participate in research and creative activities. He was recognized for his collective work regarding the equity valuation techniques he used during multiple finance competitions.

But for those who know Bal, that day had been in the making for a long time. His mentor, Shelly Canterbury, instructor of finance at the School of Management, has worked with Bal since 2012 when he took her FNAN 302 class, and afterward as he assisted with research for the development of an advanced valuation class that will be offered next spring.

“Students like Inderbir are the most rewarding part of teaching,” says Canterbury. “To witness his growth, both as a student and an adult, has been one of my great privileges of working at Mason.”

Bal’s commitment is evident in all that he has pursued. His first competition was the Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge, a four-week challenge where he spent more than 200  hours (140 during spring break) developing a mergers and acquisitions deal.

“The competition put me in a simulated environment of a buy-side banker and I learned more in those four weeks than entire semesters in school,” he says. “That competition solidified my resolve to pursue a career in valuation.”

After that first competition, he participated in the CFA Institute Research Challenge, the Georgetown Stock Pitch Competition, the 2013 Excel ModelOff and the SOM 498 Case Competition.

He says there were many students, faculty members, classes and experiences that had a lasting effect on him, but passing the CFA level 1 exam was one of his most rewarding experiences.

“While taking a full class load, I spent two and a half months of 18-hour days and many all-nighters studying,” Bal explains. “I had to take the exam the weekend before finals in a convention hall with hundreds of other candidates for about 10 hours. It was a very different experience and tested a vast array of topics.”

After graduating this May, Bal will continue to work toward earning his CFA designation and plans to continue his work in valuation and building a career in the fields of investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, or transaction advisory services.

“Inderbir has set an example for future students by his self-motivation, curiosity and commitment to learning everything he can during his undergraduate years,” Canterbury says.

“I know that he will be successful at whatever path he chooses.”



August 12

OSCAR Weekly Office Hours

Johnson Center room 246

September 02

2015 Posters on the Hill

Council on Undegraduate Research

September 04

Faculty Poster Workshop

9:00 AM
Research Hall 301

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