OSCAR Fellows

What is an OSCAR Fellow?

The Office of Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) elects a select few to represent their department from the student body; these select students, who have displayed a sincere interest in promoting the growth of undergraduate scholarship on campus, are named OSCAR Fellows. OSCAR Fellows have had previous experience with research or creative activities and provide outreach to the Mason community about student scholarship. 

Students and faculty are invited to contact the Fellows via email; simply click on the Fellow's name below.

2016-2017 OSCAR Fellows


Aishwarya Iyer 

My undergraduate research focused on the mental health of jail inmates, specifically how inmates access and respond to mental health treatment and reformative programs while incarcerated. Through weekly interviews with inmates who have been incarcerated anywhere from one week to several months, I was able to collect data as part of Dr. Brandy Blasko’s overarching study on procedural justice and the mental health symptoms of jail inmates. Dr. Blasko gave me the opportunity to work on the study in Summer of 2014. During this time, I was employed with Advancing Correctional Excellence from the Summer 2014- Summer 2016. I assisted in ongoing projects by doing data entry, preparing data summaries and working with treatment providers to collect information on treatment programs in Philadelphia, Oregon and several other locations. Undergraduate research is truly the most transformational experience of my time at George Mason University. Of course, research played an integral role in developing my own research, writing, public speaking, critical thinking, analysis and time management skills. However, research has played an invaluable role in shaping me as a person. In addition to showing me the gifts that perseverance and persistence can bring, research has given me a wide range of connections to faculty and professionals in my field, the opportunity to contribute to my field, the courage to keep trying despite setbacks and the endless desire continue asking questions. I am confident that the skills I have developed will benefit me in my future career, where I hope to attend graduate school and work in the policy field to implement new policies, programs and strategies that will improve the state of mental health care in our nation. I highly recommend each undergraduate get involved in research while at George Mason University; it is the experience that turned me from “student”  to “scholar” to “professional”. 


Bradford Webb

I am currently in the process of conducting trials to examine the magnitude of pressure differences in the foot based on the arch of a person's foot, as well as, what the pressure is doing while walking or jogging. It involves a flexible sensor that can be placed underneath a person's foot and calculates the data I collect afterwards to determine the magnitudes that result from the experiments. This research is important to me because I suffer from a pliable flat foot and have damaged my Achilles tendon due to ankle rolls from imbalance. More importantly, this research affords me the opportunity to discover what I can do for my technical classes. Students can discover a great way to invest in areas in their major they are passionate about via a research experience. It can also give them the vehicle to contribute to the conversations in their field that may lead to solutions for challenges we face in the world today. In the long run, my research experience will assist me in recognizing what programs are relevant when applying for a Master's degree in my field. Additionally, what I discover may have a positive impact on the quality of life for others with similar challenges or passions. After I graduate, it will give me flexibility in the workforce based on having experience in how to navigate in a professional laboratory setting as well as a typical work environment. 

Chrysanthi Violaris

 Chrysanthi Violarisr

I researched the growth, development, and selective mortality of children in pre-industrialized communities around the world, gathering measurements of different long bones from the cemeteries of the past. By comparing the femur lengths of both ancient and modern juveniles, I discovered that the children of the past cultures were generally shorter than children today. It was also found that different kinds of diseases, such as anemia and malnutrition, can be observed in the bones that can indicate shorter heights. This is important in the field of physical anthropology because it means that long bones are an inaccurate way to age a juvenile skeleton. Physical anthropologists would determine a much younger age for the skeleton since the bones have a shorter length compared to their modern counterparts. Working on my project and doing this research made me feel like I was already creating waves within my field. I gained the necessary skills to not only present my research and discuss my work with other academics, but also knowledge on how to use a wide variety of databases. My research will benefit me with my future endeavors because not only do I now posses the knowledge to be an active member in my field, but I can get a head-start doing what makes me passionate. I know I have the ability to already start working and collaborating with other physical anthropologists. I highly recommend undergraduate research because it has shaped my college career for the better. 

Daniel K. Howe

Daniel K. Howe

My own experiences in undergraduate research have been twofold. First, I am an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Oscar Barton on a Federal Work Study position. Second, I also spent this last summer working on an intensive summer URSP grant with Dr. Colin Reagle. In the first instance, Dr. Barton and I developed a program that visualizes the motion of mass-spring-damper systems as an aid in vibrations instruction, while for the latter project I researched the effectiveness of carbon foam as a lightweight heatsink for a computer. Both of these projects contributed to an overall body of knowledge, albeit in different ways. In the first project, the results of our work are instructive for integrating computers into engineering instruction. In the second case, the results of the summer project provide useful knowledge for implementing the material itself in a new application. Based on these experiences, I believe that students should seek to invest their time and effort in undergraduate research for several reasons. First, the experience of formulating and investigating an original question is invaluable since that process requires answering many questions that executing a pre-set experimental routine will not prepare you for. Second, familiarity with the research process provides useful insight when analyzing the work of other researchers. For myself personally, the undergraduate research opportunities I have experiences have assisted me in rounding out my applications for graduate school with practical experience beyond that found in my coursework and different from the skills garnered in more traditional engineering internships.

Divya Gitala

Divya Gitala 

If I were asked to describe the field of Neuroscience in one word, it would be “inquisitive.” Throughout my undergraduate years, my coursework has highlighted the importance of an interactive, heuristic approach to learning. As my class learned about one part of the brain, we would immediately discover something unknown about the next. The scope for problem-solving combined with my passion for exploration led me to Dr. Lipsky’s lab at the Krasnow Institute, where I studied traumatic brain injury (TBI) through the Inova Biomedical Internship and URSP program. Specifically, I sought to identify neuroinflammatory proteins related to stress that could increase vulnerability to TBI. I first became interested in this project because I wanted to understand how big an impact stress could have on the body. My interest escalated when I realized that PTSD in military veterans could physically manifest itself as TBI, and I decided to help them overcome this through my contributions in research. My role is to isolate antibodies using ELISA testing in the frontal cortex, cerebellum and hippocampus of rat brains, which will later be compared to those proteins found in humans. I was fortunate to receive the summer and fall URSP grants to fund my project and also participated in poster and oral presentations at several undergraduate research colloquiums. My experience as a URSP scholar has proved to be invaluable by giving me first-hand insight into the scientific method. With plans to pursue medical school, I have no doubt the writing, observation and critical thinking skills I learned will help me become a better physician. As an OSCAR Fellow, I hope to encourage new students to become a part of the exciting cadre of student researchers who strive to solve novel problems. It’s an amazing experience that will not be forgotten!

Grace Morgan

Grace Morgan

Participating in undergraduate research has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had in my college years. I was given the chance to do archaeological research on Tirup, a cemetery associated with a town in Medieval Denmark. The site was excavated, but very quickly so, and many questions about the site were left unanswered. With the help of my mentor I was able to use the original excavation data to investigate the order of the burials in the cemetery. The cemetery had been in use for over 250 years, and over 600 people were buried there, but the order and the age of individual internments has not been defined. The plot was limited on space, and so many burials were stacked on top of one another. I set out to compare the depth of each burial to create a stratigraphic map of the cemetery. The way people are buried is a reflection of those that buried them, their rites, and culture. The community making use of this cemetery was transitioning from Nordic religions to Christianity and this affected how their arms were positioned in their graves. There was a theory that these changes in hand position could provide a timeline for the burials in Tirup. I compared the data I had gathered with that theory and actually disproved it. Denmark, at the time, had been declared a Christian nation by their king, but that does not mean everyone forgot their own beliefs and converted. Yes, some did, and their hand position reflects that, but not all, making hand position an inconsistent marker for change over time. Doing this research made me realize that cultural change is not linear; and there are many factors that influence it. It also gave me the chance to gain experience in my field and better prepare me to work as a bio-archaeologist when I graduate! 

Iris Stone

Iris Stone

I did not come to college with any plans to get involved in undergraduate research. Even after I switched my major to physics, I did not immediately consider the benefits of working on a research project. And yet, by some serendipitous happenstance, I found myself with a position as an assistant in a new optics lab on campus, and I haven’t looked back since. Over the past two years, I have been working in Dr. Vora’s lab to explore the properties of 2D- and nano-materials ranging from charge transfer (CT) crystals to transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) to single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). Probing the fundamental properties of these materials – the way they respond to light and temperature, for example – have allowed us to characterize not only their behavior on microscopic scales, but also their potential in macroscopic applications. At each turn, I have had the opportunity to learn about how our work in the lab could ultimately benefit the world at large, from electronics with enhanced memory storage to biosensors that detect chemical changes in the brain.

Of course, my experience in research will have a huge impact on my transition to graduate school – both in the strength of my applications and the ease with which I will acclimate to a new lab environment. But just as importantly, research has enabled me to witness first-hand the value of empirical thinking and objective analysis. In our lab group, we are constantly looking for explanations to the phenomenon we observe; to find the truth, we must replicate our results many times over, make comparisons to the literature, evaluate our data from multiple perspectives, consider trends and changes over time…the list goes on. And while this approach may seem commonplace in the sciences, I detect it far less often outside the lab. This is why I strongly encourage undergraduates to consider participating in a project through OSCAR, even if they do not see a future for themselves in research. Critical thinking, investigation, analysis: these are essential life skills that impart confidence and a basic understanding of how the world works – and can benefit students of every discipline as they prepare to take their place as leaders, communicators, and innovators in the post-college world.

Sameen Yusuf

Sameen Yusuf

With the mentorship of Nathalia Piexoto and several other professors at Mason, I been involved with research since my freshman year at Mason. From spending hot days in Nicaraguan hospitals testing a gaseous oxygen analyzer, to initiating the Model World Health Organization Conference (MasonWHO) pursuing research has been the most wholesome experience of my undergraduate years.  I began designing a low-cost oxygen analyzer using zinc-air batteries for developing world hospitals my. Not only have I been able to integrate my loves for bioengineering, language learning, and global health, I’ve also had the opportunity to spend a full summer prototyping and receiving feedback from biomedical technicians who have longterm experience working in hospitals in Nicaragua and Nepal. Additionally, during my junior year, I organized the first MasonWHO Conference focused on Refugee Health under the mentorship of Dr. Ali Weinstein. The event is meant to mimic the political, social, cultural, and economic realities defining global health policies today. The project resulted in a comprehensive book on Refugee Health worldwide featuring position papers and resolutions from the event. Overall, undergraduate research has allowed me to apply concepts I learn in the classroom in the real world, as well as follow my passion for global health research. Undergraduate research certainly steers my progress towards becoming a globally aware engineer. 

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans

As a result of several fascinating classes I have taken at George Mason as well as the direction of current events, in college I have developed a strong interest in Middle East policy and counter-terrorism. My experience with the OSCAR office began in the spring of 2016.  With the help of my mentor, Professor Heba El-Shazli, I researched this question: Are failed states or weak states are more advantageous for transnational terrorist groups? In the fall of 2016, I will be specifically focusing on ISIS through this question: How can the United States adjust central components of its largely Al-Qaeda focused counterterrorism strategies in order to contain ISIS?
While the concept of research might be seem academic or intimidating at first, the OSCAR office has created accessible ways for undergraduates in any major to pursue topics they are passionate about. As someone who does not plan on an academic career, I can say that the experience of doing research is valuable because it will help you learn about a topic in a uniquely deep and self-directed way. While classes are structured and run by your professors, research allows you to create and pursue something that builds upon the ideas of others yet is uniquely your own. 
I think that the best way to find an idea for meaningful research is to simply look for problems that need to be solved in a field that you have a strong interest in. Both of my questions came about as a result of the disconnect I noticed between the current reality of terrorism and the direction of certain U.S. actions and policies. After being exposed to relevant information in classes I took, I noticed issues in both the U.S. approach towards state failure and ISIS that needed to be more deeply researched, more clearly understood, and, ultimately, more effectively addressed. Regardless of your field, the process of learning more and searching for solutions will be valuable to you as a student and as a person.


Zanib Cheema

Zanib Cheema

I've been extremely blessed with having the opportunity to pursue my research with two different universities. One being Harvard, and the other George Mason. While conducting my research I was able to connect with a variety of people and more importantly unveil the injustice that took place with the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques. The focus was specifically on finding a response from Pakistani citizens to analyze the cruelty of such methods on an international level. Pakistan was one of many countries that were analyzed in a greater research study conducted by the Carr Center for Human's Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Being able to work on such a project allowed me to gain insight to human's rights and the idea of privilege. On a greater scale the purpose of the findings were to support a greater theme and idea to fight the inhumane use of torture by condemning it on a national level. 

Students should invest in research because they'll learn about their passions. It's amazing how much I learned about myself through engaging in a topic that's completely irrelevant to my major. I think that being able to apply myself to an entirely new field allowed me to feel empowered to explore and entertain my curiosity, and I would love for other students to experience such a journey. The benefits of conducting research are endless, but the main one being that it's not for other people as much as it is for the person conducting the research itself. It's such a great learning experience to get that hands-on application that isn't quite there when trying to grasp concepts. There's no harm in exploring, in fact it'll only create a passion for a subject(s) that best suite the student. 


2015-2016 OSCAR Fellows


Juwariah Shareef

While growing up my mother always stressed education and scholarship. With her counsel in mind I entered college to transform myself into a well-rounded student. For this reason I have actively pursued scholarly research to enhance my educational experience. Research has allowed me to develop critical thinking, reading, writing and analysis skills. It has also given me the confidence to actively pursue my academic goals with renewed interest. My research project was also a product of various experiences. Last summer I was able to visit China and the special economic zones there. My trip to China combined with my International economics class made me highly interested in Export Processing Zones as tools for economic growth. With these tools in mind I embarked on a journey to find out the reasons behind Pakistan’s slow economic growth. 

My undergraduate research project on the “Export Processing Zones of Pakistan” allowed me to analyze the EPZ performance in Pakistan and the various political and economic factors responsible for the lagging economic performance in Pakistan. Nations can only alleviate themselves after gaining financial independence and economic liberation. States mired in countless troubles like Pakistan can only move forward if they confront their financial troubles and doing so entails finding solutions in economic policy tools. That is there reason as to why I question the performance of Export Processing Zones. I believe answering this question has allowed me to better understand the situation in Pakistan. I research, collected, gathered and analyzed data about the zones from the World Bank, IMF, SEZA and trade specialists. I was able to pinpoint exact indicators for the slow economic progression in these zones. This research being the first of its kind can be used as a template for further research on other developing countries in similar situations. With my plans to enter the financial services field after college I believe this research has well equipped me with skills that will better prepare me for the rigors of the business world.
Sameen Yusuf OSCAR Fellow Photo

Sameen Yusuf

From spending afternoons programming an Arduino Uno, a credit-card sized microcontroller board, learning about battery electrochemistry, to sharing my research with fellow engineers and local technicians in Nicaragua; pursuing laboratory research has been the most wholesome experience of my undergraduate years. I began designing a low-cost oxygen analyzer using zinc-air batteries for developing world hospitals my sophomore year under Dr. Nathalia Piexoto’s mentorship. Not only have I been able to integrate my loves for bioengineering, language learning, and global health, I’ve also had the opportunity to spend a full summer prototyping and receiving feedback from biomedical technicians who have longterm experience working in rural Nicaraguan hospitals. The oxygen analyzer can potentially be used for a variety of neonatal and adult medical equipment: primarily oxygen concentrators, but also neonatal incubators and ventilators. I’ve also had the privilege of presenting my work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Washington state during the Spring 2015 semester. Undergraduate research has helped me apply information that I learn in the classroom in the real world, and steers my progress towards becoming a globally aware engineer! 

Samantha J Brown

Samantha Brown

This past semester I conducted a pilot study to explore social support, a concept positively related with an array of health benefits, among international students at Mason. My goal was to identify factors that influence these students’ social support levels. I reviewed literature on the topic, compiled a questionnaire, and administered the survey on campus under the guidance of a research mentor. Through this project I was able to obtain a broad understanding of the social support and stress international students experience during their time at GMU while also taking several external factors into account. Participating in URSP has easily been the most valuable academic experience I have had as an undergraduate for several reasons. Through the program, I was able to practice the research process I had learned so many times in theory. I also developed communication and professional skills as I worked closely alongside several faculty members. As I plan on pursuing a graduate degree in Epidemiology, this experience will stay with me not only as a resume-builder but also as a great learning point that I will always be able to look back to. I cannot encourage students to begin seeking research experience as undergrads enough, as I have found programs such as URSP to be so supportive for beginners in the field and conducive to personal, academic, and professional growth.    
Ryan W

Ryan W. Pfeifle

Conducting research at the George Mason observatory atop Research Hall with my mentor, Joe Renaud, has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. The dome hosts a 0.8 meter telescope which we use to observe an astrophysical phenomenon known as gravitational microlensing.  These rare events involve a chance alignment between one massive body, such as a star, and a luminous source in the background; this alignment allows the foreground body to magnify the light of the source. The study of these events is crucial for the advancement of our knowledge of exoplanets; this is currently the only method which can feasibly detect planets that orbit their host stars at vast distances. These observations and analyses were some of the most exciting and rewarding work I have ever completed. This work granted me valuable experience in observational astrophysics, afforded me new and valuable skills, led me to connect with colleagues across the globe, opened up opportunities to contribute to international collaborations, as well as opened up opportunities to speak at conferences and author scientific papers. Having a taste of research from this project and others, avingI certainly intend to move on to graduate school and pursue a PhD in astrophysics. This research, truly, has allowed me to begin forging a pathway to a career. For this reason, and for all of the other possibilities just waiting to be realized, students should pursue these research opportunities and get involved with OSCAR without hesitation. You will conduct great work, forge fantastic friendships and partnerships, examine potential career paths in-depth, and contribute to the advancement of your field and humanity!
Kyle Jackson pic

Kyle Jackson

My undergraduate research experience has focused on providing insight into the legal industry, which is often characterized by high wages for lawyers combined with involuntary unemployment in the legal labor market. More specifically, I looked into whether this phenomena can be explained by an efficiency wage model, which raises legal fees and wages. I did this work, which is still ongoing, under the supervision of Nick Bormann, who at the time was a Ph.D. candidate in economics. We chose the topic because while the majority of economic discourse on the topic focuses on legal institutions acting as barriers to entry, an efficiency wage model has yet to be tested empirically and deserves further investigation. Working on this research project has proven to be invaluable to my professional development. Things like networking with researchers, expanding my intellectual interests, applying empirical methods learned in class, and really learning how to do research are all reasons why I highly recommend others to pursue research. While doing internships have their place, spending a semester doing research is a work experience unlike any other. Depending on your field, the autonomy given to you while doing research is liberating. Not to mention, you get out what you put in – so the more effort you put into research, the more rewarding it is. I know that my research experience has had a major impact on my marketable skills and has helped me narrow my interests. I highly recommend anyone interested in undergraduate research to take the leap and do it – reach out to your professors and see what work they are doing! 
Jared Keller pic

Jared Keller

The engineering world is full of creative and resourceful solutions for achieving successful, reliable, and efficient infrastructure systems.  No matter what the task may be, engineers’ use of proven methods, combined with innovative techniques, always rise to the challenges at hand.  During a summer internship in my hometown of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania I worked in the transportation department on the bridge inspection team.  This experience inspired me to approach Dr. Lattanzi and accept his offer of conducting research on using drones as a safer and more efficient way for inspecting bridges.  Recently, the research and development of drones has gained a considerable amount of attention by engineers worldwide.  Despite this popularity, the current implementation of drones and their beneficial capabilities have not reached their full potential.  Today, the need has arisen for a safer, quicker, more efficient and more cost effective way to inspect bridges.  My research has added to this growing body of knowledge that is currently being compiled by other scholars, scientists, and engineers working to find a solution.  Last semester I was fortunate enough to present my findings at NCUR 2015 at Eastern Washington University in Chenny, Washington.  This experience exposed me to other student researchers who shared similar interests in various fields of engineering and provided me the opportunity to broaden my engineering background.  Conducting research and presenting my results has motivated me to further explore engineering and its ability to impact research and development.
Bobby Graham pic

Bobby Graham

My OSCAR research focused on understanding the effect high frequency electrical stimulation has on in vitro neuronal cultures. High frequency stimulation has been shown to facilitate a heightened response to subsequent stimulation in hippocampal cultures, and the final result of our research ended up quantifying pieces of this response in cortical cultures. Research has been, without a doubt, the most valuable experience of my undergraduate career. The benefits the research experience has brought me permeate all aspects of my academic, personal, and professional life. Working with Drs. Nathalia Peixoto and Franz Hamilton of George Mason University’s Neural Engineering Lab, I have been exposed to the fields of neuroscience and engineering in ways I never saw in the classroom. Learning about the bleeding edge of fields that I am interested in, and meeting and sharing my work with other scholars that perform incredible research has encouraged me to become a more successful student, a harder worker, and an overall better person. Lastly, learning to conduct research has taught me a lot about myself – how I work best, how to manage my time, what I struggle with, and how I can overcome obstacles. I would strongly encourage any student that wants a new and rewarding challenge, to improve all aspects of their life, and to learn more about this incredible world around us, to contact one of the many great mentors available at George Mason University.

Alex Nixon Pic

Alex Nixon

I have worked in the Laboratory of Nanotechnology and the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine while completing my bioengineering degree at Mason. I have a strong passion for nanotechnology and my research really reflects that. In the Laboratory of Nanotechnology I worked with my mentor on designing a porous microparticle for biodefense applications; in the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine I have been working on developing a skin patch capable of detecting melanomas. As an incoming student, I knew that I wanted to do research, but I never thought that I would have the opportunities that Mason has given me. It is amazing knowing that undergraduates are capable of completing research at a professional level. My peers constantly surprise me with what they are able to do, just as I surprise myself with what I find I am able to do. I have found that research has both been the most rewarding, as well as the most frustrating experience that I have had, but every bit of it is worth it. For me, researching has been one of the ways that I feel that I have left my mark on Mason. It’s an amazing feeling to know that the work that you are doing is capable of benefiting people from all over the world. 

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Aishwarya Iyer

My undergraduate research focuses on the mental health of jail inmates. The study was originally proposed as a venture to examine the effects of procedural justice incarceration techniques on the mental health symptoms of jail inmates; however, I narrowed my focus to how inmates access and respond to mental health treatment and reformative programs while incarcerated in jail. I have collected the data by conducting weekly interviews with inmates who have been incarcerated anywhere from one week to several months, for the duration of their incarceration. The study is part of Dr. Brandy Blasko’s overarching study on procedural justice and the mental health symptoms of jail inmates. Dr. Blasko gave me the opportunity to work on the study in Summer of 2014. With her guidance, help and support, I received the OSCAR URSP grant in Fall 2014, have recently finished data collection and am about to begin data analysis. I will be submitting abstracts to several conferences in the fall, and look forward to possibly publishing an article once data analysis is completed. Undergraduate research is truly the most transformational experience of my time at George Mason University. Of course, research played an integral role in developing my research, writing, public speaking, critical thinking, analysis and time management skills. However, research has played an invaluable role in shaping me as a person. In addition to showing me the gifts that perseverance and persistence can bring, research has given me a wide range of connections to faculty and professionals in my field, the opportunity to contribute to my field, the courage to keep trying despite setbacks and the endless desire continue asking questions. I am confident that the skills I have developed will benefit me in my future career, where I hope to attend law school and make advancements in health care law.

2014-2015 OSCAR Fellows

Jeffery Warner headshot

Jeffery Warner

The primary goal of my project has been to gather as many samples of Hydrodamalis gigas bone material as possible, extracting DNA from the bone, and using DNA sequencing in order to determine the phylogeography and population genetic structure of that animal in the past. With these sequences we can build a haplotype map to determine the relatedness of individuals to each other and the relatedness of populations in the species an important fact in regards to the conservation of current Sirenian populations. I was provided with the opportunity to work on this project by my mentor Dr. Lorelei Crerar in the spring of 2014, and am continuing it in the fall of 2014. This research has been my first step into the professional scientific community, and it has given me exposure to the field of genetics in a way that no class ever could. I have so far presented my research at the conference, Secondary Adaptations of Tetrapods to Life in Water, and my abstract has been accepted to another conference being held in Berlin in November. These are opportunities for me to improve my public speaking and professional writing ability, majorly boost my resume, and contribute to the body of scientific knowledge that I have spent so long studying. In addition to this, research gave me, as a transfer student to George Mason, exposure to the people in my program, and provided me with connections to faculty that I wanted but lacked. It is my opinion that everyone in an undergraduate program should be involved in research in some regard; it will only benefit you, not only in academia but professionally.

Hannah King Headshot

Hannah King

Choreographing under the mentorship of OSCAR and Professor Jim Lepore, has been vital to my undergraduate experience. I've been challenged to reexamine my definition of research, dissect my own choreographic process, and learn how to be an advocate for my art form. I have had the opportunity to choreograph multiple full length pieces and work with a costume designer, Cat Buchanan, to create total visions. As a student pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance, I have had the chance to experience my field from a professional perspective while still being in my undergraduate years. OSCAR invited me into a community of scholars and offered the opportunity to present dance research as an endeavor that is comparable to other academic activities. To be surrounded by innovative young people is inspiring and has encouraged me to remain accountable for the work that I create. As a young artist I believe that it is important to understand why I am doing the work that I am doing. My experience with OSCAR has given me the tools to articulate my craft, the confidence to critique my work, and the curiosity to keep asking questions.

Alisha Brown

Alisha Brown

I did not think that I would have the opportunity as a nursing major to conduct research as an undergraduate student.When I was presented with the idea in my nursing fundamentals class, I decided that I would look into it and see if it was something that would interest me.From the moment that I met my mentor, I knew exploring research was an opportunity that would change my college experience. The purpose of my project was to see how motivational interviewing affected elderly clients above the age of 65, who have obstructive sleep apnea and mild cognitive impairment, and their adherence to CPAP machine usage.I saw my project being related to my long term goals because I eventually want to get my PhD in nursing and there will always be questions that need answering in the medical field.I know that starting my research skills now will only improve as I reach different heights in my nursing career and begin a research study of my own.On a weekly basis, I met with either my mentor or her colleagues in the sleep lab.I entered patient data and looked through patient files to see what their past and present CPAP machine usage is like and how motivational interviewing has affected their scores.I wrote a semi-structured motivational interviewing questionnaire to talk with patients and ask questions that were specific to the motivational interviewing process.I am also submitted an abstract to the Gerontological Society of America and I hope to present my findings at a local conference in DC this November. The OSCAR program added another level of excitement to my college career and I loved every minute of my research experience.

Marcus Daum Headshot

Marcus Daum

I work in a non-equilibrium physics lab at the Krasnow Institute here on campus. We study the energy flow of systems as we abruptly perturb them from a steady-state to chaos. Working on this project has been one of the most influential and incredible experiences here at Mason. Since I began working on this project, I have solidified my desire to attend graduate school for physics to get a PhD, while simultaneously determining which subset of physics I want to study. In addition to this, I have built amazing friendships with my mentors and fellow students in the lab, which I am sure will last a lifetime. I know that if I didn't get involved with this research experience, I would be bumbling around with no idea what I should be doing or where I should go for help. Now, I know that I always have a place to go or someone to talk if I ever need help. This is why students need to get involved in these types of research experiences; they are a fantastic way to guide you and keep you on track while building lasting relationships.

Caroline Thomas Headshot

Caroline Thomas

Senior Fellow 2015-2016

If I were to choose the most rewarding experience of my college career, it would be my time spent pursuing research in neurogenesis. Since my freshman year at Mason, I have had the privilege of working in The Cox Laboratory under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Cox and collaborating with truly brilliant postdoctoral and graduate students. My research focuses on dendrite morphology in Drosophila and examines how specific molecular pathways drive the genetic expression in neurodegeneration. I have had the opportunity to present my research findings at various professional conferences and poster sessions within my field of study. Research in The Cox Lab has challenged me to push myself further than I thought I was capable. Teaching me the value of perseverance and critical thinking, my experience at The Cox Lab has helped me to grow as a student and shape my views on medicine as a future physician. I look forward to continuing my research as an undergraduate and also in medical school as I have been accepted as an early selection medical school student beginning in the fall of 2016.

Denisha Hedgebeth Headshot

Denisha Hegdebeth

Undergraduate research has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my college career. My experience doing research has enabled me to broaden my knowledge of the field that I am interested in, and the skills that I've learned throughout the entire research process-from formulating a question to presenting my research at conferences-are skills that I have strengthened and will take with me even after I graduate from college. My project was a historical research project investigating and analyzing the anti-apartheid movement on Mason's campus from 1984-1990. This research has helped me gain a new understanding and appreciation for research in the humanities and social sciences and has allowed me to learn more about the structure of social movements and student activism, which is something that I have always been interested in. In the future, I hope to go on to graduate school to continue studying multiculturalism, public policy, and international development.

Laith Alhussein Headshot

Laith Alhussein

Participating in undergraduate research has been the most rewarding and beneficial academic component of my undergraduate career thus far. Starting in the summer of my sophomore year, my research on translational neuroscience has allowed me to transform oftentimes abstruse concepts I've learned in the classroom into vivid, real-world solving techniques for practical application. Moreover, the skills I've gained conducting research has helped with my performance in many of my classes. While my experience has provided for plenty of intellectually challenging endeavors, which I enjoy, it has also taught me a lot about myself; I'm certainly a better student because of it, but also a better person. My experience has exposed many of my character flaws, and I've come to appreciate patience, dedication, and humility much more. Ultimately, if there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that participating in research under the continuing tutelage of my amazing mentor, Dr. Wilsaan Joiner, will forever remain a major contributor behind my success and achievements. I really look forward to the day I can do the same for someone else.

Alexandra Headshot

Alexandra Johnson

For my undergraduate research project, I worked on revising the Cell Structure and Function Laboratory course manual. My main focus was the post-lab assessments. In addition, I tested some experiment methods and looked into inquiry-based lab experiences. The work that I did helped me understand how students learn best. The new manual will provide students with a stronger background in analyzing experiments. It is important for students to invest the time and work into a research experience because it builds their confidence about taking risks and presenting their findings. Research also provides an outlet for developmental curiosity. Along the way, students will discover more about their interests and abilities. In the long run, I will be prepared to carry out my own research and develop more experiments for my own students because I plan to become a high school biology teacher. I have gained a better understanding of how to question students to enhance their knowledge and critical thinking, which will serve me well.


Jenna Lynn Zink headshot

Jenna Lynn Zink

Being involved in a research experience has provided me with the most incredible opportunities. This summer I became an intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, continuing my research and also studying to become a certified space weather forecaster. I also traveled to Telluride, Colorado to attend the SHINE Workshop where I presented me research and gave a talk about where I work in NASA. After this summer, I will begin writing a paper about my research and eventually will be published in a scientific journal. I will also be working part-time as a space weather forecaster trainee for the next year. All of these opportunities were available because I became involved in a research experience with the Undergraduate Research Scholars' Program at Mason!

Matt Rawls

Matt Rawls

I began undergraduate research in the geosciences as a junior in the summer of 2013, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.Before I got involved, I never would have thought that undergrads could participate in real and impactful scientific research, and I was very wrong.The OSCAR program gave me the opportunity to travel with my mentor Dr. Foustoukos to the East Pacific Rise where we spent a month at sea conducting oceanographic research.My research experience to-date as an undergraduate has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and in the process I was able to really develop important research skills in data analysis, critical thinking, presentation and public speaking.If you are an aspiring graduate student like myself, I would highly recommend you pursue opportunities in undergraduate research.The URSP through OSCAR is an amazing program and they have really helped me build a great foundation to pursue research at the graduate level.

Kelsey Ryan Headshot

Kelsey Ryan

Pursuing research as an undergraduate allowed me to explore my field in ways not available in a normal classroom setting.My transportation engineering research, under mentor Dr. Shanjiang Zhu in the Civil Engineering department, focused on identifying vulnerable points in the Eastern Shore, Maryland transportation network and developing a model to help better facilitate evacuation in the event of a hurricane (much like Hurricane Sandy in 2012).This research experience gave me the opportunity to take on real world challenges and come up with real solutions that can be implemented to help save lives.Knowing that the skills you are learning in your classes can be applied on a larger scale is very motivating and exciting.Without the OSCAR program, I wouldn't have been able to experience this first hand, and as a result, this research helped confirm that a civil engineering degree, and future career, is the right path for me.

2013-2014 OSCAR Fellows

Leah Bruch

Leah Bruch

Senior Fellow 2014-2015

If there's one academic component about college I will remember in thirty years, it will be the amazing experience I have had while doing research!  Being involved in research has taught me a significant amount about the field of public health, as well as myself.  I began my research experience about a year ago with my terrific mentor and have been pursuing different projects ever since.  Being involved in independent research has truly taught me how to think differently when it comes to problem solving, which is a skill that I will carry with me throughout the rest of life.  Along with learning about the process, research has aided the creation of friendships with my mentor and classmates alike.  The research I have been conducting has ultimately steered me to pursue public health as a whole; this year I will be applying for dual Physician Assistant/Masters of Public Health programs.


Stephen Lippi

Stephen Lippi

Senior Fellow 2014-2015

Being involved in undergraduate research here at Mason has added to my college experience in so many ways. Not only has being involved in research been fun and rewarding, but also it has been an amazing opportunity that not many undergraduates receive. My involvement in animal research, under the direction of Dr. Jane Flinn, in the Psychology department has allowed me to not only learn new behavioral and analytical techniques, but has allowed me to incorporate material learned in classrooms into real lab settings. Undergraduate research has taken me from just sitting and learning in a classroom to actually applying knowledge learned and actively engaging in a scholarly pursuit to answer my own research questions which will be the basis of my Master’s thesis. My research project taught me skills in critical thinking and problem solving and allowed me to become more involved in the Psychology department here at George Mason University. My future plans include pursuing a PhD in behavioral neuroscience or physiological psychology and I plan to use my research experience from George Mason as a solid foundation to continue doing research and pursuing answers to unanswered questions.


Angela Shaffer

Angela Shaffer

Senior Fellow 2014-2015

I couldn’t wait until grad school to start my own research experience, so when I learned about the undergraduate research opportunity through OSCAR, I immediately looked for a mentor and we began writing a research proposal. To my pleasant surprise, it was accepted and my excellent mentor and I conducted our research over two semesters. This experience has been one of the most mentally and, at times, emotionally challenging endeavors I have ever pursued, but I loved every second of it. Not only did I better learn how to think like a scientist, but I learned just how important collaboration is in research. I was amazed by the brilliant and diverse ideas of my fellow OSCAR researchers as we shared the progress of our individual projects with each other. As of Fall 2013, my OSCAR mentor and I are wrapping up a paper about our study to be submitted for publication. My OSCAR research has been incredibly rewarding and I look forward to the continued success of this program and the student researchers it turns out!



Francis Aguisanda

Pursuing research in the biological sciences as an undergraduate has been one of the best decisions I've made here at Mason. I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Daniel Cox over the past two years, studying the molecular mechanisms that underlie class-specific dendrite morphogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster. His excellent mentoring has also led me to accept an internship studying the role of RNA-binding proteins in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). My experiences in the lab have been challenging and worthwhile, and they have played an instrumental role in shaping who I am as a person and as a scientist. I hope to someday have a successful career in medicine, where I can be involved in the development of novel chemotherapeutics. Yay research!


Joel Mota

Joel Mota

My decision to participate in undergraduate research, the summer after my freshman year was and continues to be the most rewarding decision I have made in college. Not only was I allowed to work on my own research project, but being a part of undergraduate research and OSCAR and URSP has opened up a world of administrators, professors and students interacting in scholarship beyond the classroom. It has given me an opportunity to see where my particular field is evolving and how I can make myself important in that field in the years to come. I am currently doing research in ion dynamics in epileptic states, in the Cressman lab at the Krasnow Institute for advanced study. In particular, I study potassium and it’s dynamics in cortex and hippocampal tissue samples after seizure-like events. I plan to continue this research and search for new research opportunities while furthering my studies in Biology, Environmental Sciences, and Zoology. In hopes to eventually find a career in Herpetology.


Jessica Magnotti

Jessica Magnotti

I have been curious about research since I started college, but as an undergraduate I assumed I wouldn't be able to do much more than mundane laboratory tasks. I was excited to discover that GMU has a program where the student can design and carry out their own research project. With the support of OSCAR and my mentor, I have conducted research in an area of my choosing and passion: avian behavior. My project investigated how urban noise levels are affecting avian communication. I have gained so much experience from participating in the URSP, everything from working in the field to presenting my project at scientific conferences and co-authoring a paper that will be submitted for publication. I am currently applying to veterinary school where I plan to continue participating in research. 



Aaron Baker

As an undergraduate economics major I developed an ardent desire to do research, which made finding out about the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program a welcome surprise. With the guidance of my mentor, professor Donald J. Boudreaux, my research has focused on standards of living in the U.S. relative to Norway, France, and the United Kingdom. Economic well-being is determined by using a labor cost metric to ascertain the cost of goods and services. This experience has become the catalyst for my future goals and career plans, which include publishing, shaping public policy, and attending graduate school at Mason.



Stephanie Skees

Through participating in the OSCAR program I was not only opened up to the world of research, but to a completely different culture as well. I have spent the past year working on a comparative research project which looks at both the United States and Taiwan’s long-term care systems and policies. The funding from OSCAR enabled me to return to Taiwan a second time in order to further my research and cultural competency. Research has given me space to take a simple observation and prove its relevancy. After graduation, I plan to pursue a dual degree M.S.W. /M.P.H. in order to continue my work in gerontology focusing on public policies.

Sarah Albani

My involvement in undergraduate research throughout the past four years has re-defined the way I view the world. It has taught me to conquer the fear of unfamiliarity through the inspiration of asking questions and devising ways to seek their answers. By participating in a variety of clinical and basic science research opportunities, I have had the chance to experience both depth and breadth of ideas and challenges across different scientific and biomedical disciplines. My hands-on experiences have instilled within me a greater understanding of scientific principals and phenomena beyond just what is taught in the classroom and extracted from textbooks. Concepts and ideas have become three-dimensional, in a manner that integrates knowledge with practical applicability in the fashion necessary to solve real-world problems. I look forward to continuing to make scholarly contributions through my research, with a specific passion for translational neuroscience.


Sam Gelman

Sam Gelman

Undergraduate research has been a key component of my experience at Mason. I started my project in the Spring of sophomore year. Since then, I've made close connections with professors, learned about and contributed to the study of human movement, and traveled to present my research at a national conference. Undergraduate research is an excellent way to get involved, and it has been a great supplement to my regular classwork. I plan to go to graduate school where I am sure my undergraduate research experiences will benefit me greatly.


2012-2013 OSCAR Fellows


Claire Collins 

Senior Fellow 2013-2014

Research is a great opportunity for me to interact with a professor and have a one-on-one relationship that is more personal. My mentor was down to earth, helpful, and caring towards her students and we were in constant communication with one another throughout the project by text messages, phone calls, and meetings. Working on this project helped shape my career path I know that the bond I share with my mentor won't end here. I am currently the process of writing a grant for the continuation of my project in which we will work with transfected cells which will have Thymosin beta-4 expressed endogenously instead of ectopically. The URSP has opened a lot of doors!

Myu Rubarahan

Myurajan Rubaharan

Senior Fellow 2012-2014

I have been doing research for the past 3 years with Dr. Daniel Cox in Dendrite Morphology using the fruit fly as a model organism at the Krasnow Institute of Advance Studies. I started research as a freshman and even after graduating with a BS in biology, I am continuing my research by doing an accelerated masters here at Mason. I am planning to do a M.D/Ph.D after I graduate from my Masters. I have interests in Developmental biology, Neurobiology and Nanomedicine.

Mai Abdel-ghani

Mai Abdel-Ghani

Senior Fellow 2013-2014

As a high school student, I developed a great interest in scientific research. My experiences examining poor health care abroad motivated me to use my experiences in the classroom to improve the health of individuals. Since then, I have been interning at the Department of Integrative Systems Biology at the Children's National Medical Center (CNMC). My research focuses on Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPS) that impact bone, skeletal muscle and fat phenotypes. Information from our research at CNMC allows us to determine susceptibility to orthopedic complications, which allows for a greater degree of personalized medicine. After graduation, I am planning to attend medical school in hopes of becoming an Orthopedic Surgeon.

Rachel Trump

Rachel Trump

Having the opportunity to work on undergraduate research has been one of the most exciting parts of my college career and a major determining factor for my career aspirations. Through outstanding mentors and support of the Honors Program in Psychology and URSP I was able to do an independent research project on the internal and external factors that affect disclosure decisions for people who identify as LGBTQ. This year as a non-degree grad student I have been furthering my research experiences and applying to I/O and Social Psychology Ph.D. programs.

Luis Sullivan

Luis Sullivan

Undergraduate research has accelerated my education and career at a rate I would of thought impossible when I entered as a transfer student from Northern Virginia Community College.  I have presented at nearly a dozen regional and national conferences, performed experiments that are being incorporated into nearly half a dozen publications, and am currently gaining interest in top-tier graduate programs across the nation.  My work has focused on the neural systems of fruit flies, which serves as a model in investigating the molecular genetic mechanisms driving neuropathological disease.  My career aspiration is to study Neurobiology at the doctoral level.

Devin Porter

Devin Porter

Being involved in research has prepared me for success in my career goals in so many different and has been the best thing that could have happened to me here at George Mason.  I first began research with Dr. Bishop after the summer of my freshmen year.  My research consists of studying antimicrobial peptides as a possible therapeutic agent against bacterial infections.  Due to the increase in emerging drug-resistant pathogens, the need for a novel therapeutic is in great demand.  More specifically, I study how these peptides could conquer in an in vivo environment of molecular crowding.   After graduation, I have plans to conduct research in translational medicine for 2 years, before pursuing an M.D./Ph.D degree.  I later plan to pursue a career in personalized medicine.

Niah Grimes

Niah Grimes

I started my undergraduate research at the beginning of my junior year and it is one of my most memorable college experiences. Being involved in research at the undergraduate level is extremely rewarding.Not only was I conducting my own research project, but OSCAR taught me many valuable lessons about intellectual integrity, research ethics, and how to face the many upheavals that can come with research. Through this program I was able to conduct good research with a strong support system to help guide me. Applying to the undergraduate research scholars program was one of the best decisions I made during my college career.

2011-2012 OSCAR Fellows

  • Myurajan Rubaharan
  • Sabrina Speights
  • Luis Sullivan
  • Aaron VanAndel

What does an OSCAR Fellow do?

Basic Responsibilities

Developed by: Myurajan Rubaharan and Luis Sullivan

  • Attend outreach events, where the Fellow will represent OSCAR, and educate the attending group on the opportunities and incentives OSCAR provides Mason.
  • Attend OSCAR committee meetings, where the Fellow will provide a "student’s perspective" on programs offered by OSCAR.
  • Attend URSP meetings, where the Fellow will present the work they have accomplished as an undergraduate at Mason.
  • Attend UNIV 100 and other courses, where the Fellow will explain the process of scholarship, and encourage attending students by elaborating on their own scholarly experiences at Mason.
  • Demonstrate continuous progress on an independent or mentored scholarly project
  • Act as a resource for incoming URSP students, providing them with advice on advancing and developing their scholarly activity.

Broader Impacts

The responsibilities of OSCAR Fellows extend beyond satisfying minimal obligations, such as those listed above.  Fellows should work on advancing the Students as Scholars Initiative by brainstorming ideas and projects that are additive to its mission. Regular sessions organized by OSCAR Fellows will include:

  • Discovering and outlining new potential events on campus, where OSCAR’s presence is appropriate.
  • Inviting discipline specific mentors, to address what scholarship looks like in their field.   Giving OSCAR fellows a clearer picture of cross-discipline scholarship.
  • Organizing and assigning roles for each independent Fellow, such as scheduling which events each Fellow will attend.
  • Statements on individual progress: How have your promoted OSCAR since the last session?
  • Promoting and maintain networking events for URSP students, which promotes a scholarly community at Mason, such as community dinners where URSP students and the OSCAR Fellows can meet potential rising scholars.

If you are interested in becoming an OSCAR Fellow, please email oscar@gmu.edu.