A semester full of impact: Undergraduates present OSCAR research

Junior Davesh Purohit presents his research at the Fall Celebration of Student Scholarship. Photo by Evan Cantwell/George Mason University.

George Mason University impacts students, and students impact the world. That was the idea at play for the Fall Celebration of Student Scholarship and Impact hosted by the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) on Dec. 13 at The MIX.

About 60 presentations, showcasing research by 75 undergraduates, were included with the OSCAR event as part of the Mason Impact initiative.

“With OSCAR students enter into a community of scholars, where students get to talk to and learn from people doing all different kinds of research,” said Karen Lee, assistant director of OSCAR. “For many of the students, this is a good training opportunity for things they want to do in the future.”

“OSCAR gives you the opportunity and the funding to pursue any creative project you desire,” said junior Davesh Purohit, who is majoring in neuroscience and whose research focused on early detections of Parkinson’s disease.

Other projects included examining how the Turkish government and private sector shape working conditions for Syrian refugee garment workers, assessing digital literacy skills of students and closing the gender gap in computer science, evaluating environmental security in Latin America, and even the evolution of scat music.

“The [OSCAR] experience taught me a lot about my field, but also about where I can take my work and that my work is worth doing,” said senior music major Talha Mirza, who used Java programming and modular synthesis to create soundscapes inspired by space travel.

“One of the coolest things that I learned was that it doesn’t matter what project you’re working on, it will always be something that can relate to every other subject,” Mirza said, adding that even subjects as seemingly different as music and biology can help inform one another.

Students also learn the ins and outs of the research process.

“We were taught a lot of important things about publishing your work, how to make presentations, how to talk to your mentor, how to network—a lot of skills that you initially wouldn’t gain without applying for an OSCAR,” said sophomore neuroscience major Maanvi Vij, an Honors College student who researched how to control the firing of neurons using nanoparticles to help with neurodegenerative diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia. “[OSCAR] also makes research a lot easier because now you have the materials and funds to do it.”

The opportunities OSCAR provides are for every undergraduate, Lee said.

“If [students] have an idea, we can help them do it—it’s not exclusive; this is something undergraduates can do and can do well,” Lee said.