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Mason Pond and Waterways Are Test Bed for National Stormwater Monitoring Project Tuesday, June 23,2015

Mason Pond and Waterways Are Test Bed for National Stormwater Monitoring Project

As climate change brings rising water and floods, much of it laced with pollution, better and faster ways to monitor and clean stormwater are needed. George Mason is part of a national $1.3 million environmental project, funded by the Dominion Foundation.

Mason is located at the headwaters of the Rabbit Branch watershed, which drains into the Chesapeake Bay System. Mason has won three grants from Dominion in as many years to monitor stormwater and develop advanced flood warning and water quality detection methods.

Instruments monitor the quantity of water flowing into streams and Mason Pond after a storm and also the quality, including water temperature, turbidity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and nitrate concentration. The portable instruments are outfitted with a GPS to detail the exact location as well as take a photo of what’s happening in the stream.

Celso Ferreira and Viviana Maggioni––Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering professors in the Volgenau School of Engineering––are leading the project.

Ferreira began working with the Dominion Foundation in 2013 to look at disaster protection from flooding and has expanded the work to include water quality and smart networks, which would be able to tell when it’s raining and ultimately provide detailed early flood warnings.

The professors plan to work with Mason facilities and share future data, said Maggioni, who’s from Milan, Italy and began working at Mason about 18 months ago. The collected data will be shared through the Mason Water Data Information System.

“If we keep building on our campus that will have impact on the water quality,” Maggioni said.

The Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering professors also are working with electrical engineering professors, including Nathalia Peixoto, and Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science professor Paul Houser, to create a smart network that Ferreira envisions could tell drivers in the future, perhaps through a cell phone app, which intersections are flooded.

“The goal is to make the system more efficient and cheaper,” said Ferreira, who’s been at Mason for three years and hails from San Paulo, Brazil. “It could go globally. It could go anywhere.”

Plus, the project is helping students get their hands wet in the field.

Audrey Nerette is a rising sophomore civil engineering major from Haiti who won a summer research experience for undergraduate students internship to work on the project.

“I would like to come back to Haiti and help with the waste water system there,” she said.

She’d also like to combine architecture studies with a civil engineering degree.

“I like the fact that I’m starting to know what working in my field would look like.”

Civil engineering major Renee Nmair is working on the project as a summer intern with funding from Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research.

 Continue reading on Mason News page.

Mason Students Are Turning Dried Blossoms into a Digital Database Thursday, June 11,2015

Mason Students Are Turning Dried Blossoms into a Digital Database

It’s the second day on the job for George Mason University senior Ushna Ahmad, who’s part of a student team that’s digitizing more than 45,000 dried plant specimens for a national project.

The 2,000-member Virginia Native Plant Society is funding a curatorial assistant, Mason doctoral graduate Manuela Dal Forno, to prepare the Mason collection for the undergrad team charged with imaging the specimens. The undergrad student team includes Ahmad, environmental science major Maryam Sedaghatpour, and biology majors Joseph Bradley and Sophia Stavrou.

They’re working in the basement of Exploratory Hall where giant metal cabinets house more than 60,000 dried plants for Mason’s Ted R. Bradley Herbarium. Some are 100 years old and haven’t been touched in decades, said Andrea Weeks, a botany professor and Mason’s herbarium director.

Continue reading on Mason News Page.


GMU's Student Chapter of the ASCE raced their concrete canoe at the ASCE competition in April 2015 Friday, May 22,2015

GMU's Student Chapter of the ASCE raced their concrete canoe at the ASCE competition in April 2015

The student team invested 8 months in the design-build process resulting in their fastest canoe to date. Support for the project provided in part by Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) and the Civil Engineering Institute (CEI).

Watch the video here:

Record number of Fulbright awards highlight Mason’s global diversity efforts Wednesday, May 20,2015

Record number of Fulbright awards highlight Mason’s global diversity efforts

“Mason’s record number of student Fulbright awards in 2015 is a reflection of the university’s ability to attract and cultivate student talent, and also our growing presence in the world of international education and global affairs,” said Kathryn Ágoston, director of graduate fellowships in the Provost’s Office.

The university’s international involvement can be seen on many fronts, including a greater emphasis on study abroad opportunities for students, international collaborations for faculty, Mason’s partnership with INTO, the Mason Korea campus, and the Global Problem Solving initiative, Ágoston said.

English Teaching Assistantship awards are designed to help introduce the English language to countries throughout the world.

“They’re looking for eager young people to teach English and represent the United States,” Berger said.

Fulbright Scholars come from a variety of backgrounds and don’t need a 4.0 GPA, said Berger. Fulbright is looking for students who represent the diversity of the United States and can help bridge cultural gaps in other countries.

“The faces of our winners actively reflect Mason’s diversity,” Berger said.

Last year four students, out of about 20 applicants, received Fulbrights. This year the number of applicants was slightly higher but the success rate was stronger.

“Our students represent what Fulbright is all about, and these students are willing to commit to the application process—that is the winning combination,” Berger said.

Continue reading on Mason News webpage.

Students Launch Floating Wetlands on Mason Pond Wednesday, May 13,2015

Students Launch Floating Wetlands on Mason Pond

“I learned how to think scientifically by working on this project,” said Chris Rusinko, a senior art and visual technology major specializing in printmaking. “Having a class that bridges the art department and the science department is a personal experience in a lot of ways.” 

Environmental professor Changwoo Ahn was inspired to create the wetlands, or “The Rain Project,” so students could make those kinds of connections. Mason graduate students will monitor Mason’s first floating wetlands for an ongoing research project. About 24 students were part of the two-semester class.

Wetlands help clean storm water that washes into retention ponds, rivers and lakes and also aid in controlling flooding, said Ahn, a professor in the College of Science’s Environmental Science and Policy Department, and founder and director of EcoScience+Art. Ahn said the goal of the project is to create sustainable stormwater management in the era of climate change. Floating wetlands are being used in North Carolina and other areas.

Continue reading on Mason News here.

When it comes to putting out fire, GMU students show it’s all about that bass Tuesday, March 24,2015

When it comes to putting out fire, GMU students show it’s all about that bass

The two senior engineering majors at George Mason University appear to have invented and built a way to use sound waves to put out fires. It started as an idea for a senior research project, and after a year of trial and error and spending about $600 of their own money, they have built a somewhat portable sound generator, amplifier, power source and focusing tube that would seem to have great potential in attacking fires in a variety of situations.

Robertson, 23, and Tran, 28, applied for a provisional patent at the end of November, which gives them a year to do further testing on other flammable chemicals — so far they have put out only fires started with rubbing alcohol — and to continue to refine their device. Although they originally conceived of the device as a way to put out kitchen fires and, perhaps, fires in spacecraft, a local fire department already has asked them to test their bass waves on a structure fire; they think the concept could replace the toxic and messy chemicals involved in fire extinguishers.

Robertson of Newport News, Va., and Tran of Arlington, Va., are electrical and computer engineering majors, and the idea for their senior project came about only because they didn’t like the ideas that their professors had proposed. They had seen research on how sound waves could disrupt flames, “but there’s nothing on the market that works,” Robertson said. “So we thought we could be the ones to make it happen. And that’s the inspiration for the project.”

As with all great scientific inspiration, there were plenty of naysayers, the pair said. They are electrical engineers, not chemical, and were told, “You guys don’t know what you’re talking about,” Tran said. A number of faculty members declined to serve as advisers on the project, but professor Brian Mark agreed to oversee it and not fail them if the whole thing flopped, Tran said.

Continue reading and view a video on Washington Post site.

Students from Mason and Korea’s POSTECH Work Together on Problem-solving Monday, February 16,2015

Students from Mason and Korea’s POSTECH Work Together on Problem-solving

The students learned hands-on design methods that look at problems from multiple angles to design the most effective product. The Mason students are from such varied majors as math, design, biology, bioengineering and computer engineering. 

By collaborating with people outside of her math major in the College of Science, Chelsea Mohindroo says she gained new insight into how to look for answers. “The program exposed me to design thinking that I wouldn’t have learned in class,” says Mohindroo, who grew up in Springfield, Va.

In an approach called “SCAMPER” students take an idea, such as how to help older people with disabilities, and come up with a product. The acronym stands for Substitute something, Combine it with something else, Adapt something about it, Modify or Magnify it, Put it to some other use, Eliminate something, and Reverse or Rearrange it.

For example, a walking cane could have a foldout chair inside of it. But they didn’t stop there. They added a flashlight and other helpful additions. In another approach, the students imagined themselves as different members of a community and how they would see the product.

These approaches made for an effective combination that engineering major Sarah Choi says she plans to apply in her future classes at Mason. This was the first visit to Korea for Choi, a Korean-American. Next year, Korean students will travel to Mason. “The cross-cultural experience meant a lot to me,” says Choi, who grew up in Sterling, Va. “It was nice to go back to my cultural roots.”

Continue reading this article on Mason News webpage.

URSP Student and Mason Junior Finds His Field of Dreams in Sport History Thursday, January 15,2015

URSP Student and Mason Junior Finds His Field of Dreams in Sport History

Now, through a minor in sport and American culture, Kleine is creating an oral history of how race and society played a role in Washington, D.C., sports.

Kleine took courses on U.S. sport history and basketball history with Professor Chris Elzey in Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He was so fascinated with the subjects that he asked Elzey how he could learn more. Elzey suggested Kleine apply to Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR) undergraduate program.

“It allows him to do the hands-on work of an oral historian,” Elzey says. “Assessing his project so far, I’m very pleased.”

Kleine and Elzey created a list of potential interview candidates. Not everyone called back. But their persistence paid off when Kleine met two former athletes who were willing to share their stories of perseverance.

Kleine, of Pennsylvania, flew to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., to meet Maury Willis—three-time World Series champion; seven-time Major League Baseball All-Star Game player; All-Star Game Most Valuable Player; National League Most Valuable Player; two-time Gold Glove Award winner; and the first modern-era player with two, 90-plus stolen base seasons. Wills also is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Golden Era ballot being considered for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

“He was the real deal,” recalls Kleine, “I’d never met a more genuine, happy individual.”

Continue reading this article on Mason News webpage.

Mason Staff and URSP Recipient Watch & Report on Human Rights Trials in Peru Monday, January 5,2015

Mason Staff and URSP Recipient Watch & Report on Human Rights Trials in Peru

The tattered and stained clothes on the table belonged to a young girl; the soiled garments, broken hair accessories and still-tied shoes are all that is left of her. The items were found buried in her grave, a grave she shared with a second person, most likely a relative. The clothes are evidence of a hideous crime—perhaps a human rights violation by the ruling government—that took place in the 1980s in rural Peru. Now, decades later, the alleged killers are finally coming to trial in Lima.

Time has faded the public interest in the outcomes of the dozens of trials emerging from the internal armed conflict. But a George Mason University professor and her protégé, a Mason alumnus, fare constant presences in the courtrooms of Lima, making sure that justice is carried out correctly and transparently. The professor, Jo-Marie Burt, teaches political science at Mason’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs and is director of Mason’s Latin American Studies program. Burt also is a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, where she works on human rights and transitional justice issues.

The student is Karina Arango, a Fairfax native who graduated last December with degrees in government and international politics and global affairs. When she’s not applying for a master’s degree and a Fulbright scholarship, she can be found in a sparsely populated courtroom, ever vigilant for legal irregularities. But the courts move slowly. “It’s a bit frustrating because I feel for the victims,” Arango says by Skype between sessions. “I know the families, and for some of these cases, I’m the only one in the audience. But it’s worth it because it’s important for the victims to have some sort of retribution, socially and legally.”

Arango, whom Burt calls “my eyes and ears on the ground,” and Burt, when she is not teaching at Mason, record whether officials are being impartial. They report on violations and seek to increase awareness about the trials, particularly in light of little local press coverage, through a blog Burt started in 2010,

Burt was Arango’s mentor for a project funded by Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR) in 2013. With OSCAR funding, Arango made her first trip to Peru as a trials monitor for Burt’s project. Burt and partner organization the Due Process of Law Foundation were recently awarded a grant from the Department of State that will allow the trial monitoring activities to continue into 2016.

Continue reading on Mason News webpage.

Teaching through undergraduate research with Dr. Bethany Usher Friday, December 19,2014

Teaching through undergraduate research with Dr. Bethany Usher

Dr. Usher is Director of the Students as Scholars initiative through the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) at Mason. She earned a BA in Anthropology and Biology from the University of Virginia, an MA in Bioarchaeology from Arizona State, and her PhD in Biological Anthropology from Penn State, and has previously been a professor at SUNY Potsdam (2000-2010).

Go here to hear the podcast.


July 07

OSCAR Weekly Office Hours

Johnson Center room 246

August 07

Summer Celebration of Student Scholarship

2:00 PM
Johnson Center West Lounge (2nd floor)

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