Researching the Researchers

Providing a glimpse into a few of the amazing opportunities for discovery here at Ohio State.

At Ohio State, there are countless opportunities for students to engage in research — both during their undergraduate and graduate careers. There are many fields of study, faculty members, and procedures that can be overwhelming for someone inexperienced with conducting research. In this feature, we will highlight three of our members and their projects to show how they have navigated this system and found their own personal successes.

Amanda Slager is a 3rd year Chemical Engineering student. She has worked in Dr. Jessica Winter’s Lab in the CBEC since the summer of 2017. Amanda said she initially was interested in research as a way to “do something worthwhile” during the summer after her freshman year. To do this, she emailed “around 13 different professors” asking about openings. Some replied positively, and after interviews with professors and grad students, she found Dr. Winter’s lab to be the best fit. Amanda focuses on a Biomedical Engineering project entitled “Breast to Brain,” which deals with breast cancer metastasis. Here is Amanda’s description of her work:

“So when breast cancer metastasizes, it spreads to other parts of your body including your brain and forms a cancerous tumor there. There is a barrier separating your blood from the brain called the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). The breast cancer cells are able to pass through this barrier which is bad since then it forms brain cancer which is much more fatal than breast cancer. I am studying the migration patterns of different breast cancer cell lines to determine how they migrate in varying environments that are set up to model the BBB. We put breast cancer cells into wells that simulate different environments and then put them under a microscope and image them over a long period of time to determine their migration patterns.”

Amanda’s piece of advice to aspiring researchers is to email many professors expressing your specific interest in their lab. Actually understanding a bit about their project will be very advantageous so they know that they you care about the actual work they do, not just the position.

Ruksana Kabealo is a 3rd year Computer Science and Engineering major. She currently does research for Information Characterization and Exploitation (ICE) Lab, Florida Institute of Technology. She has worked for this lab during the summer of 2018 as part of the Advances of Machine Learning in theory & Applications Research Experience for Undergraduates (AMALTHEA REU) Program. Ruksana was encouraged to apply for this program by a professor at Ohio State that she was doing individual machine learning studies with at the time. Her project was entitled “Catch-20: Pushing Analytics to the Edge.” Check out Ruksana’s personal description of her project below!

“In this project I worked alongside another undergraduate student, a graduate student, and a faculty mentor to explore the use of machine learning techniques and edge analytics to exploit low-fidelity, cyber-physical signatures, specifically those collected from mobile devices. We developed an Android mobile application, Catch-20, which performed high resolution data visualization, event detection, feature extraction, and deep learning classification on infrasound, sound waves with a frequency below 20Hz. The infrasound data was collected from the microphones of the mobile devices themselves. The application used an artificial neural network, specifically a multi-layer perceptron, to perform classification. To demonstrate the capability of the application, infrasound data of SpaceX rocket launches were collected and classified by the application as one of three types of launches: Atlas, Delta, or Falcon. This application serves as a framework for the classification of any time series data, not just infrasound. Any pre-trained artificial neural network and any time series data can be easily substituted into this framework, allowing for the development of mobile applications to classify anything from rocket launches to bird calls to volcanic activity, all from a user’s pocket. My primary role throughout the project was the development of the back-end of the application.”

Ruksana adamantly encourages others to never underestimate themselves. She mentioned that she had never used Python before starting her research this summer, and by the end of the experience she could individually build Artificial Neural Networks in Keras. Ruksana’s story goes to show how you “really can learn anything” if you put in the effort. If you are interested, Ruksana’s poster summarizing her work is included below.

Ruksana’s Summer 2018 Project Summary

Lastly, Claire Penrose is also a 3rd year Chemical Engineering major. She has worked in the Ohio State Chemical Engineering department as a part of the Process Engineering Research Group since this past May. Claire works with the data analysis of environmental impacts and emissions.

She initially found this opportunity through the CBE research page and then reached out to the professor with the work that was most interesting to her. Once the two had met, Claire met with the grad student on the project to beginning reading articles about the project topic. Ultimately, she began to compile data towards the project she now works on! Claire recommends that anyone looking for a research position investigates and reads about the topic of the project you are inquiring about before meeting with the professor. Reaching out is never a bad thing, especially if you are informed and excited.

While, all of our featured members were all 3rd year students, research can be conducted by students of any age — from freshman year through graduate school. If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about the women and projects above, please contact Bridgette Wadge.3, and she will connect you appropriately. You can also find out more at the links below.