MDP Research Projects

Participants | Research Projects

The MDP is committed to offering students novel and creative design opportunities exploring the diverse, multidisciplinary fields of energy, environment, healthcare, and culture. Student design teams will be fully immersed in the research laboratory, collaborating with their faculty co-mentors, and using state-of-the-art equipment. These projects will fully engage the students and provide them the opportunity to see how multidisciplinary collaboration can lead to innovative results.

The following faculty-mentored design projects are available during the 2017-2018 MDP. Select a link for an overview of the project, associated faculty co-mentors, project prerequisites, and related publications.

MDP Design Projects

    1) “Miniscope” Imaging of the Brain: New Hardware Design and Improved Software Analysis 

    2) Children Impacted by Cancer in the Latino Community 

    3) Development of an Interactive Device for Interpreting Musical Performance Gesture and Expression 

    4) Exploring Boundaries: Interactive Storytelling of Wayang Kulit 

    5) Intelligent Power and Workplace Monitor using Combined Senor Approaches 

    6) iXercise: An Immersive Platform for Exercise Intervention for Special Needs Populations 

    7) Microfluidic Automation of Advanced Glycation End Product Monitoring on Continuous Dendritic Cells Culture 

    8) Ocean to Tap: Assessing the Technology Options and Economics of Desalination in California 

    9) PET: A Personal Embodied Trainer to Promote Mindfulness and Physical Exercise at Home 

    10) Retina-On-a-Chip: Micro Bioreactor to Study Organoids in Culture 

    11) Spine-Rad Brachytherapy Bone Cement 

    12) Stress, Emotion, and Energy (SEE) Study 

    13) Supporting Social Media Data Analytics using Texera 

    14) Understanding the Experiences of English Language Learners in Higher Education 

    15) Urban Ecology and Health: Development of a Novel Approach for Investigating the Link between Atmospheric Particle Composition and Toxicity 

    16) Using Sensor Technology to Understand Water Quality and Estuarine-Ocean Exchange in Newport Bay Estuary, California 

 Project #1:  “Miniscope” Imaging of the Brain: New Hardware Design and Improved Software Analysis
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Xiangmin XuAnatomy & Neurobiology

Professor Qing NieMathematics

Professor Zoran NenadicBiomedical Engineering

Professor Gopi MeenakshisundaramComputer Science

Description:  New and emerging technologies have been applied to neuroscience research. The miniaturized microscope (“miniscope”) is a fluorescent microscope, roughly the height of a Lego brick, which weighs less than 3 grams. As the miniscope is small and light, the animals move around with it very well. Prof. Xiangmin Xu’s laboratory has been using custom designed, head-mounted miniscopes to image hundreds of brain cells in one field of view in freely behaving mice. Miniature microscopic imaging of neural activities in the intact brain allows for studying how neural activities at single-cell resolution are associated with learning and memory, and spatial navigation. The research will lead to a better understanding of the neural circuit mechanisms that underlie neurological disorders including Alzheimer's disease and temporal lobe epilepsy. For this multidisciplinary design project, Prof. Xu will work with Profs. Nie, Nenadic and Meenakshisundaram through existing collaborations. We would like to invite students to work with our team to (1) improve the miniscope construction and assembly, and (2) adopt and develop new software for image data analysis. We will sponsor project-specific education and hands-on opportunities for students to develop multidisciplinary skills and expertise.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes:

Specific research activities: (1) Students will be trained to construct miniscopes, and they will participate in specific new designs of relevant hardware parts. In particular, the team aims to modify the printed circuit board (PCB) for new mini-LED illumination, and other add-ons. (2) Students will have opportunities to observe and conduct neuroscience experiments, and be familiar with the miniscope applications. (3) Students will work with team members to adopt and develop new software for analysis of microscopic imaging and related mouse behavior data.

Expected outcomes: (1) Students will receive an integrated experience combining both hands-on scientific research with interactive educational activities. (2) They will have opportunities to actively learn scientific concepts and methodology, gain experience in biomedical research. (3) They will develop useful skills in miniaturize hardware construction, image data analysis and computer programming.

Prerequisites: We look for students with motivation, enthusiasm and commitment to our interdisciplinary research. Undergraduate and graduate students majoring in engineering, computer science or biology are welcome to join our team.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   UCLA open source head-mounted calcium imaging miniscopes:

 Project #2:  Children Impacted by Cancer in the Latino Community
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Michelle FortierAnesthesiology

Professor Belinda CamposChicano/Latino Studies

Description:  In 2014 the U.S. Latino population reached 55 million, with cancer becoming the leading cause of death among adult Latinos and the second leading cause of death among Latino children. In order to adequately address improving quality of life for children and their families during cancer treatment, we must acknowledge that racial and ethnic minorities are at greater risk for reduced quality of life due to factors such as socioeconomic status and cultural values and beliefs which can also affect their approaches to health care. Accordingly, it is important to understand the psychosocial factors that may underlie these disparities in health outcomes. Therefore, our aim is to launch new research and develop an intervention focused on reducing disparities in quality of life in Latino children and their families during cancer treatment. Specifically, by incorporating community-researcher collaboration methodologies such as community-based participatory research (CBPR), we can meet the needs for patient-centered methodological approaches that engage patients in health care improvement. Our plan is to engage a community task force of low-income Latino parents whose children are either undergoing or have recently completed treatment for cancer in a series of meetings to identify research needs of the Latino community while building a sustainable partnership and program of research.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes: In collaboration with our multidisciplinary team, students involved in this research project will get hands-on experience conducting community based participatory research guided by the principles of collaboration, co-learning, and mutual benefit. Students will work with the PIs, project coordinator, and community task force members to lead meetings focused on the long-term goal of creating a culturally tailored intervention. They will contact families by phone to assist in the coordination of gatherings and will be present in all community task force meetings taking notes on topics discussed. Students will transcribe meeting audio and learn to organize and code data for qualitative analyses and presentation.

Prerequisites: Undergraduate and graduate students interested in participating must apply to become a part of the UCI Center on Stress & Health. Eligibility includes a 3.00 GPA and a commitment of 10 hours per week. Students must also be bilingual as task force meetings are held in Spanish.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Fortier MA, Wahi A, Maurer EL, Tan ET, Sender LS, Kain ZN. Attitudes regarding analgesic use and pain expression in parents of children with cancer. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2012;34(4):257-262.:
   Wahi A, Phelan M, Sherman-Bien S, Sender LS, Fortier MA. The Impact of Ethnicity, Language, and Anxiety on Quality of Life in Children with Cancer. Appl Res Qual Life. 2016;11(3):817-836.:
   Fortier MA, Batista ML, Wahi A, Kain A, Strom S, Sender LS. Illness Uncertainty and Quality of Life in Children With Cancer. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2013;35(5), 366–370.:

 Project #3:  Development of an Interactive Device for Interpreting Musical Performance Gesture and Expression
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Mari KimuraMusic

Dr. Michael KlopferBiomedical Engineering

Description:  In this project we seek to develop a gesture control system for musical performance that is composed of a glove worn sensor, a communications system, and a software interface that provides unique artistic applications for performance artistry. This project involves the development of an integrated device to interpret and extract expressive gestures, and provide performance control. This new control paradigm is, in part, enabled by the latest generation of low-power wearable sensors when paired with reliable wireless links. A number of solutions using gesture control have been envisioned and are in production, but many lack the focused, interdisciplinary development required to produce solutions for disruptive musical training and enhancement of musical performances. Through the support of the MDP program, this team intends to develop a new generation gesture control solution with numerous potential applications for musical performance and education as well as in other fields of the arts.

The system is implemented as a specialized controller for this software to provide musical processing with highly specialized gesture control. The movements are reported by the sensor over a wireless link. The software then detects and analyzes characteristics of the user’s movements using a mapping engine. The output of this mapping engine is used to control inputs to commercial music software that allows real time interaction, such as Max ( or Ableton LIVE (, to permit relevant and direct gesture control of specific performance parameters while reducing cross-talk from non-intended motions. The system provides the capability to allow dynamic modification of the performance experience by the artist. The performer may use this device to control the rate or style of pre-recorded accompaniment, add performance audio/visual effects, or even create a new method for expanding artistic and human expression. In the current version, it is focused towards music but could be applied to different forms of artistic expression and specialized interactive gaming. It could also be attached to another non-electronic device such as a paint brush, tablet pen, mouse or inserted inside a ball or a toy.

The described solution is currently in proof-of-concept form. With support from the MDP program, we seek to develop a device at a level of development which a typical musician could use in his or her performance. In 2017, Dr. Kimura published an album “Voyage Apollonian,” which features her current proof-of-concept prototype sensor project-named “MUGIC.” Continued product development is required to make the physical device and the solution as a whole more accessible.

Beyond performance, development of this device can hold great benefit for musical education. For example, for violin playing the device could be worn as a wearable glove on the right hand. A teacher for a group of students could use a version of this system to detect and characterize elements of technique to offer specialized guidance on not just a specific point, but common patterns in technique that characterize poor habits. Tracking of specific “proper” pattern can also be accomplished allowing this to help train good habits in addition to identifying bad ones. Other applications in art and beyond are possible.

Students' Involvement and Expected Outcomes: For this project, students from both art and engineering are involved in product design for this highly interdisciplinary project. Under mentorship lead from Departments of Music and Engineering, two students from each department will brain-storm, collaborate and work in tandem, in order to providing design input and product refinement feedback. The students from Music Dept. would beta test the device in real-life concert situation in order to create a truly relevant device for artistic expression. The two dedicated engineering students will be reducing product design aspects to a device which will be constructed at Calit2. A graduate seminar taught by Dr. Kimura will serve as a testbed for the new developed “MUGIC” device. In the class, she will further develop and research the relationship between relevant movements generated for artistic purposes. The MDP student team in consultation with Drs. Klopfer and Kimura, will help develop a new, innovative design including a physical component based on an integrated printed circuit board (PCB), and an improved, streamlined network connection and ‘turn-key’ style, user-friendly software control.

Prerequisites: This project is highly interdisciplinary; we are looking for students with interests in several fields; music, product design, visual artistry, electrical engineering, and computer science. The firmware development is based in the C programming language, while the interfacing software is currently written in a combination of C and interfaced using a visually driven programming interface using the interactive music software Max ( Development of the physical interface involves textile design and electronics development. A key aspect of this project is reducing the electronics footprint, decrease in size and cost while increasing in device reliability, robustness and utility which relies on the design of a custom printed circuit board (PCB). Innovative thinkers with relevant experience are encouraged to apply. Hands-on experience in graphic design (Photoshop, Illustrator) is preferred for students majoring in art who would like to participate in the design of the user interface and product development.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   B. Zamborlin, F. Bevilacqua, M. Gillies, and M. d’Inverno, Fluid gesture interaction design: applications of continuous recognition for the design of modern gestural interfaces, ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems, 3(4), pp. 30-45, 2014.:
   S Fdili Alaoui, C Jacquemin, F Bevilacqua, Chiseling bodies: an augmented dance performance, CHI’13 EA on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2915-2918, 2013.:
   Frédéric Bevilacqua, Nicolas Rasamimanana, Emmanuel Fléty, Norbert Schnell, and M. Kimura, "Extracting Human Expression For Interactive Composition with the Augmented Violin", New Instruments for Musical Expression conference proceedings at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, pp. 99–102, 2012.:
   F Bevilacqua, F Baschet, S Lemouton,The Augmented String Quartet: Experiments and Gesture Following, Journal of New Music Research 41 (1), 103-119, 2012.:
   M. Kimura, “Making of Vitessimo for Augmented Violin: Compositional Process and Performance", New Instruments for Musical Expression conference proceedings in Genova, Italy, pp. 219-220, 2008:
   “Future Music Lab” at Atlantic Music Festival, where the proof-of-concept prototype has been used by Dr. Kimura and her students. Sample 1:
   “Future Music Lab” at Atlantic Music Festival, where the proof-of-concept prototype has been used by Dr. Kimura and her students. Sample 2:
   “Future Music Lab” at Atlantic Music Festival, where the proof-of-concept prototype has been used by Dr. Kimura and her students. Sample 3:
   “Eigenspace” by Mari Kimura:

 Project #4:  Exploring Boundaries: Interactive Storytelling of Wayang Kulit
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor J. Paul DourishInformatics

Professor Jesse C. JacksonStudio Art

Ms. Chaeyoon Yoo Informatics

Ms. Sarah Ng Informatics

Description:  This design project draws from Malaysian shadow-puppet theater in order to demonstrate how an immersive experience that foregrounds multiplicities of viewpoints and interpretations may lead to a community building practice. The design project explores how these cultural boundaries could be porous sites, where imaginaries of the past and present, human and machine, Hindu and Muslim intermingle.

This work takes inspiration on the mode of storytelling utilized in traditional Malaysian shadow-puppet theater. Wayang Kulit, one of the oldest forms of storytelling in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries, is an artistic and ritual performance that embraces the multiplicity of identities and perspectives in creating a narrative. Amidst the tension between traditional Hindu and Islamic lineages of Malaysia lies the attempt to modernize and revive this form of Hindu storytelling. For instance, Peperangan Bintang is an adaptation to the narrative of Star Wars. In such cases, indigenous literature is reinterpreted in a more contemporary, even futuristic, technological and scientific imaginary. Shadowpuppet theater is also a cultural practice that revolves around communities of people. The performance takes place among a crowd of people that actively participate in rebuilding the story. Through collaborative storytelling, the shadow-puppet theater encourages a non-homogenous practice of meaning making that both empowers and immerses participants.

The dominant paradigm in Interactive Storytelling (IS) emphasizes active user-input that utilizes interfaces and controls that require haptic, sonic, or visual feedback from the audience. Our work will use the act of hand-holding to initiate the storytelling process. Through hand-holding, people can co-produce narratives and immerse themselves in integrated learning experiences. Being involved in the storytelling via physical action, in this sense, is thinking through doing.

The architecture of the design will consist of a dome-like structure that includes open circuits connected to conductive plates. These conductive plates would be linked with various aesthetic elements inspired by Wayang Kulit, such as backlighting and gamelan orchestra music. This work encourages participants to create rich narratives, or rich sensory experiences. The richness and the complexity of the experience is in direct correlation with the number of participants that are simultaneously holding hands. Certain storytelling elements (e.g., visual) do not travel through the circuit once human contact is broken, and the narratives on display become dull. In this way, the design also functions as a social medium that foregrounds physical contact. Because participants build trust during these interactive experiences, the design can formulate transient communities among unfamiliar participants. This is reminiscent of the codependent propagation of oral histories within Wayang Kulit.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes

The primary objective of this design project is exploring the boundaries of traditional storytelling through a contemporary lens. Students will be required to familiarize themselves with the theoretical and technical aspects of creating an interactive storytelling experience. Our goal is to present the final version of work at the SIGGRAPH 2018 art exhibit. A related paper will be written based on observations made during the testing stages.

Student participants will learn how to design storytelling systems. Student involvement includes activities such as storyboarding, product sketching, basic electrical engineering and user-testing experiments. The following milestones are proposed to achieve this outcome: (1) Students will become experienced in system design and storyboarding. By working alongside graduate students during the design process, they will learn how to incorporate user-experience design methods into the storyboarding process. (2) Students will learn to think critically about appropriate design materials (e.g. copper). The prototyping process will provide an opportunity to examine the suitability of materials for a given project. (3) Students will build the system that requires basic mechanical and electrical engineering skills. The design concept is established on the idea of building an electrical circuit operating on physiological user-input, and students will learn how to utilize hand-holding as feedback. (4) Students will become familiar with the testing, operation and maintenance of an interactive storytelling system. This includes examining, understanding, and refining the mechanical, as well as human factors of the design. Experience testing will be a continuous process that will serve as a brownstone for a research paper for SIGGRAPH 2018. Students may use compiled data for further scholarly dissemination and the general public (content on portfolio or project website). (5) Students will learn how to document design projects in order to replicate them in various environments. Documentation skills will aid students to reinvestigate, renovate, and challenge this design concept for their future projects.

Graduate Student Mentors: Sarah Ng, Chaeyoon Yoo

Prerequisites: While there are no absolute requirements, the ideal student team will consist of a mix of technical expertise—knowledge in media production, and digital prototyping skills such as Raspberry Pi—and a general inclination towards creativity and invention. All students should demonstrate a keen interest in both cultural computing and interactive storytelling. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the project, students must also demonstrate the ability to take initiative and communicate effectively in a group.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Barthes, Roland. 1977. "The Death of the Author." Image / Music / Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang.:
   Bakhtin, M.M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin, Edited by: HOLQUIST, M. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.:
   Dewey, John, 1934. “Art as Experience.” Text. New York: The Penguin Group.:

 Project #5:  Intelligent Power and Workplace Monitor using Combined Senor Approaches
Faculty Mentors:  
Dr. Michael KlopferBiomedical Engineering

Dr. Sergio Gago-MasagueBiomedical Engineering

Professor Joy E. PixleySocial Science

Description:  Buildings and factories use a number of non-integrated sensors for monitoring energy use, environmental conditions and safety. In this project we seek to explore the benefits of deep sensor integration for improving process efficiency and enhancing safety. The nature of using technology to monitor both operating equipment and the operators as a system requires an understanding of both technology and human behavior.

There are two specific points of integration we seek to investigate as part of this proposal: (1) power meter disaggregation to improve process energy efficiency, and (2) work flow and performance monitoring to improve worker safety and process productivity.

The measurement of energy usage for a specific process on a specific machine can provide diagnostic and prognostic information. Tracking energy usage can provide opportunities to improve process electrical energy efficiency to save resources, boost machine lifetime, and improve process monetary efficiency. Smart meter data (or branch meter data) holds information about power usage, but the limited sampling rate (one sample per 7 seconds) practically limits the effectiveness of this data. This is in part because the energy usage signature that is relevant for one machine is convoluted with all other operating machines. The use of an IR and vision system provides the capability of tracking operator and machine interaction and heat flow to identify operating machines and help track energy use to deconvolute (disaggregate) energy meter readings. In addition to energy tracking, providing IR+Visual imaging for personnel monitoring can improve plant safety and tracking of personnel when on shift. To prove this concept is helpful for the stated goals, a demonstration system will need to be constructed using laboratory equipment and a consumer grade imaging system.

Students' Involvement and Expected Outcomes: The students mentored in this project will work in a proactive research team guided by the faculty listed above to design, implement and test the technological solutions to disaggregation features based on multiple points of data with overlapping information related to process factors. The evaluation solution includes the following component sub-projects: (1) Development of an image-registered fused machine vision system using IR and visual sensors. (2) Setup of a test bed of machines to simulate factory conditions—3D printers in CalPlug’s Engineering Lab. (3) Implementation of reduced order machine vision identification and classification algorithm. (4) Branch meter low and high resolution characteristic power feature separation. (5) Cross correlation identification of machine usage and state from multiple sensor sources (power + fused vision) and demonstration/characterization of effectiveness.

Prerequisites: This project is highly interdisciplinary; we are looking for students with interests in several fields; Sociology, Computer Sciences, and Engineering. Student should have a passion that transcends multiple disciplines and should be good problem solvers. The majority of student work is focused on algorithm development. The majority of students should be proficient C and Python coders. Disaggregation may include machine vision solutions such as OpenCV or correlation tools such as Tensor Flow. For backend processing, Node.JS may also be used along with database solutions such as MongoDB and MySQL. IBM Bluemix/Watson may also be investigated. Students should be goal oriented and innovative.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Dong, Roy, et al. "A dynamical systems approach to energy disaggregation." Decision and Control (CDC), 2013 IEEE 52nd Annual Conference on. IEEE, 2013.:
   Rahimpour, Alireza, et al. "Non-intrusive load monitoring of HVAC components using signal unmixing." Signal and Information Processing (GlobalSIP), 2015 IEEE Global Conference on. IEEE, 2015.:
   Patri, Om P., et al. "Extracting discriminative features for event-based electricity disaggregation." Technologies for Sustainability (SusTech), 2014 IEEE Conference on. IEEE, 2014.:
   Egarter, Dominik, and Wilfried Elmenreich. "Autonomous load disaggregation approach based on active power measurements." Pervasive Computing and Communication Workshops (PerCom Workshops), 2015 IEEE International Conference on. IEEE, 2015.:

 Project #6:  iXercise: An Immersive Platform for Exercise Intervention for Special Needs Populations
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Magda El ZarkiComputer Science

Professor Shlomit Radom-AizikPediatrics

Mr. Yunho HuhComputer Science

Description:  The benefits of regular physical activity are well known. In recent years, a lot of attention has been placed by the health industry on developing motivational techniques to get people to exercise—habit forming is key. In the iXercise project, we incorporate cloud computing, cloud networking, and physical computing solutions, in conjunction with innovative game design principles, to create the iXercise platform. iXercise (immersive exercise) is based on a virtual environment exergame platform that provides an adjusted intervention fitness program targeted to special needs populations; e.g., leukemia, PTSD, obese/sedentary, and the elderly, that are unable to participate in fitness programs outside of special environments, such as medical clinics, special care residences or their homes.

Through this research study, we develop and investigate how a novel exergame ”MineBike” encourages, and maintains motivation for physical exercise in a re-habilitation program directed at the special needs populations. We also want to find the optimal workout effectiveness as the exergame difficulty is adaptable to the patients’ medical condition, their cardio capacity and the medical goals set by the doctors for their re-habilitation plan. To present a workable and effective solution, we will develop a cloud computing platform, incorporate a variety of communication channels, embed physical computing solutions all in conjunction with innovative game design principles to create the “iXercise platform”.

Student’s Involvement & Expected Outcome: As a participant of this project, you will have the opportunity to participate in the development of a novel cloud-based exergame platform that incorporates many technologies and is based on the popular MineCraft game. You will be asked to develop different aspects of the system to build an exciting exergame experience for a re-habilitation program directed to special needs pediatric populations. You will take part in a project that integrates smart wearables onto a commercial stationary cycle that will serve as the exergame platform incorporating: 1) web interface, 2) mobile component such as Android, 3) cloud streaming service, and 4) modding and building MindCraft quests specifically geared to the re-hab program.

Prerequisites: Minimum qualifications: Being an advanced level BA/BS student or graduate student in Computer Science, Computer Engineering or relevant technical field; Programming Experience in either languages C/C++, Java or C#; Being passionate to solve a variety problems. Preferred Qualifications: Knowledge of Source code management tools (i.e. Git/SVN). Knowledge in some of the following fields: embedded systems development; web frontend UI/UX development; web backend API service development; mobile app (Android) development; computer to computer communication development; video game development.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Y. Huh, J. Klaus and M. E. Zarki, "iXercise: An immersive platform for exercise intervention for special needs populations," 2016 IEEE/ACS 13th International Conference of Computer Systems and Applications (AICCSA), Agadir, 2016, pp. 1-7. doi: 10.1109/AICCSA.2016.7945709:
   A. Mills, M. Rosenberg, G. Stratton, H. H. Carter, A. L. Spence, C. J. A. Pugh, D. J. Green, and L. H. Naylor, “The Effect of Exergaming on Vascular Function in Children,” J. Pediatr., vol. 163, no. 3, pp. 806–810, Sep. 2013.:
   A. Barnett, E. Cerin, and T. Baranowski, “Active video games for youth: a systematic review,” J. Phys. Act. Health, vol. 8, no. 5, pp. 724–737, Jul. 2011.:
   V. Unnithan, W. Houser, and B. Fernhall, “Evaluation of the Energy Cost of Playing a Dance Simulation Video Game in Overweight and Non-Overweight Children and Adolescents,” Int. J. Sports Med., vol. 27, no. 10, pp. 804–809, Oct. 2006.:
   L. Graves, G. Stratton, N. D. Ridgers, and N. T. Cable, “Comparison of energy expenditure in adolescents when playing new generation and sedentary computer games: cross sectional study,” BMJ, vol. 335, no. 7633, pp. 1282–1284, Dec. 2007.:
   D. L. Graf, L. V. Pratt, C. N. Hester, and K. R. Short, “Playing Active Video Games Increases Energy Expenditure in Children,” Pediatrics, vol. 124, no. 2, pp. 534–540, Aug. 2009.:
   L. Lanningham-Foster, R. C. Foster, S. K. McCrady, T. B. Jensen, N. Mitre, and J. A. Levine, “Activity-Promoting Video Games and Increased Energy Expenditure,” J. Pediatr., vol. 154, no. 6, pp. 819–823, Jun. 2009.:
   “Energy Expenditure of Sedentary Screen Time Compared With Active Screen Time for Children | Articles | Pediatrics.” [Accessed: 26-May-2016].:
   R. Maddison, C. N. Mhurchu, A. Jull, Y. Jiang, H. Prapavessis, and A. Rodgers, “Energy expended playing video console games: an opportunity to increase children’s physical activity?,” Pediatr. Exerc. Sci., vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 334–343, Aug. 2007.:
   L. Straker and R. Abbott, “Effect of screen-based media on energy expenditure and heart rate in 9- to 12-year-old children,” Pediatr. Exerc. Sci., vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 459–471, Nov. 2007.:
   Mellecker RR and McManus AM, “ENergy expenditure and cardiovascular responses to seated and active gaming in children,” Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med., vol. 162, no. 9, pp. 886–891, Sep. 2008.:
   S. R. SIEGEL, B. L.HADDOCK, A. M. DUBOIS, and L. D. WILKIN, “Active Video/Arcade Games (Exergaming) and Energy Expenditure in College Students,” Int. J. Exerc. Sci., vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 165–174, 2009.:
   C. Höchsmann, M. Schüpbach, and A. Schmidt-Trucksäss, “Effects of Exergaming on Physical Activity in Overweight Individuals,” Sports Med., vol. 46, no. 6, pp. 845–860, Dec. 2015.:
   B. W. Bailey, “Energy Cost of Exergaming: A Comparison of the Energy Cost of 6 Forms of Exergaming,” Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med., vol. 165, no. 7, p. 597, Jul. 2011.:
   D. K. S. J. Adam Noah, “Vigorous Energy Expenditure with a Dance Exer-game,” JEPonline, vol. 14, no. 4, 2011.:
   L. Kauhanen, L. Järvelä, P. M. Lähteenmäki, M. Arola, O. J. Heinonen, A. Axelin, J. Lilius, T. Vahlberg, and S. Salanterä, “Active video games to promote physical activity in children with cancer: a randomized clinical trial with follow-up,” BMC Pediatr., vol. 14, p. 94, 2014.:
   A. J. Daley, “Can Exergaming Contribute to Improving Physical Activity Levels and Health Outcomes in Children?,” Pediatrics, vol. 124, no. 2, pp. 763–771, Aug. 2009.:
   Sallis JF, “POtential vs actual benefits of exergames,” Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med., vol. 165, no. 7, pp. 667–669, Jul. 2011.:
   T. Baranowski, F. Blumberg, R. Buday, A. DeSmet, L. E. Fiellin, C. S. Green, P. M. Kato, A. S. Lu, A. E. Maloney, R. Mellecker, B. A. Morrill, W. Peng, R. Shegog, M. Simons, A. E. Staiano, D. Thompson, and K. Young, “Games for Health for Children—Current Status and Needed Research,” Games Health J., vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1–12, Aug. 2015.:

 Project #7:  Microfluidic Automation of Advanced Glycation End Product Monitoring on Continuous Dendritic Cells Culture
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Anshu AgrawalMedicine

Dr. John CollinsBiomedical Engineering

Description:  The production of irreversible Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in chronic hyperglycemia of diabetes mellitus affects the cells by compromising the physiologic and mechanical functions. The AGEs produced react with their receptor RAGE and cause inflammation which is the underlying cause of most diabetes associated complications. An assay of AGE formation will therefore be useful for early diagnosis of diabetes. The Agrawal Laboratory has shown increased production of AGEs from dendritic cells in response to certain sugars such as fructose. Such AGEs can be monitored using absorption spectra in a microfluidic chip automated with stimulation of dendritic cells with sugars. The assay can be used for early diagnosis of diabetes.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes: The students will develop microfluidic chips, integrate UV-visible absorption spectrometer with Dr. Collins in biomedical engineering. He/she will also perform experiments to stimulate dendritic cells with glucose and fructose and recover supernatants for AGE detection in Dr. Agrawal’s laboratory.

Prerequisites: Cell culture experience is preferable and motivation to learn engineering techniques.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 

 Project #8:  Ocean to Tap: Assessing the Technology Options and Economics of Desalination in California
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Chenyang Sunny JiangCivil & Environmental Engineering

Professor Maura C. AllaireUrban Planning & Public Policy

Description:  Water supplies increasingly are becoming strained due to population growth, agricultural and industrial development, and global climate change. Seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) membrane desalination technology has the potential to meet the growing worldwide demand for freshwater by securing the most abundant resource of surface water available on the planet: the ocean. As water demands in communities around the world exceed existing storage capacity of reservoirs and deplete groundwater sources, SWRO has become a more accepted approach to augment the world’s existing freshwater supply, especially in arid regions such as the Middle East.

Coupled with recent advances in membrane technology and sustainable sources of energy for operation (such as solar or wind power), SWRO is transitioning from a viable alternative to an integral component of freshwater provisions for many coastal areas worldwide. However, there are numerous impacts of SWRO on both the environment and society. It is especially controversial in Southern California, where environmental groups are clashing with desalination developers.

This project will examine the both the positive and negative impacts of SWRO compared to other water management options such as reuse and built storage. Key questions the project will address are: What are the environmental impacts of SWRO compared to wastewater reuse? How can SWRO enhance the reliability of water supply and what is the value of this increased reliability?

Students engaged in the project will collect data on SWRO capital investment, energy footprint, operation cost, and environmental impacts. Students will learn to quantify the economic impacts of improving the current desalination technology. Possible improvements include dynamic control of desalination water production rate to synchronize with peak energy curve; improvement of membrane technology for membrane fouling reduction; application of “smart” feedback system for pretreatment optimization; and brine recovery for environmental impact minimization. Furthermore, we will conduct comparative analysis on environmental and community impacts of SWRO with wastewater reuse practices.

To best represent a realistic desalination system, the study will be set in coastal Southern California, a region actively exploring SWRO as a solution to supplement ever increasing drinking water demands, where at least six new facilities have been proposed. A hypothetical 50 million gallons per day (MGD) (1.89 × 10^5 m^3/day) SWRO desalination facility, located in Huntington Beach, CA, will be used as a case example to illustrate the validate of SWRO as a source of drinking water supply.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes: Students will conduct literature and online research to understand the current desalination technologies and identify key stakeholders in the development and implementation of seawater desalination. Students will collect and compile data from published sources to establish a database that can be used for analysis and synthesize. Students will perform both qualitative and quantitative analysis of data to develop decision-making strategies. Students participate in this project will be required to contribute 10 hours per week of time in literature research and data collection and sorting. Students will meet with faculty advisors on regular basis to report their project progress and discuss the research directions. It is expected that students will gain the self-learning skills and organization skills. All students are required to make a formal presentation at the end of project.

Prerequisites: Students with strong motivation in the subject and self-disciplinary in learning are encouraged to apply for this project team. Strong communication, analytical skills and mathematical training are also necessary. Course works in upper division engineering and economics are desired. Graduate students in all disciplinary areas are also welcome. The program is open to all undergraduate and graduate students.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Desalination a national perspective. 2008. The National Academies Press. Washington DC:
   The Economics of Desalination:

 Project #9:  PET: A Personal Embodied Trainer to Promote Mindfulness and Physical Exercise at Home
Faculty Mentors:  
Dr. Sergio Gago-MasagueBiomedical Engineering

Professor John T. BillimekMedicine

Dr. Raquel N. FallmanElectrical Engineering & Computer Science

Description:  Embodied Trainers may provide two important advantages when added to conventional or digital systems to promote wellness therapies: (1) Providing an animated biped model as an interface to represent exercises to be mimicked by the user, and (2) delivering verbal and nonverbal communication (e.g., intonation, mood and facial expression) to improve communication and enjoyment, and build a social bond that may drive the user’s attitude towards a particular goal; for instance, training harder or for longer periods. Previous research in the field suggests that Embodied Trainers have many potential features to empower home therapies. The increasing proliferation of affordable computational technologies and its subsequent prevalence within households set the scene for this new technology to take place. Examples of this technology may include computers, televisions, mobile devices, augmented reality devices, and game consoles.

Meanwhile, the world population is growing older, bringing a greater demand for strategies to promote healthy lifestyles. Wellness programs, remote health and self-care in the home setting are becoming increasingly important in long-term care to support rehabilitation and the elderly population. For instance, physical rehabilitation is of particular importance for recovering motor skills and preventing secondary conditions, such as frailty, cognitive disorders and depression.

The purpose of the present study is to continue the effort of the previous MPD project, which consisted of an animated Embodied Trainer to conveniently promote physical therapies at home by providing users with: (a) guidance, and (b) motivation and enjoyment in a cost-effective way. The technology currently in use is sensors embedded in a smartphone and a casting device to send guidance information to a television. This new MDP proposal aims to explore the potential of other motion sensors and augmented/virtual reality as an alternative delivery method of the content. This proposal is also intended to support a trial of 25 participants at Calit2 to test the proposed technology.

Students' Involvement and Expected Outcomes: The students mentored in this project will work in a proactive research team guided by the faculty listed above to design and identify available digital technologies to implement the innovative application proposed. Specifically, the students will conduct research in the following topics: (1) Physical therapies at home for wellness and rehabilitation. It’s expected to focus on elderly and survivors after a body injury who have the need of conducting physical rehabilitation. (2) Human-Computer interaction; human-centric interfaces to motivate and engage users. (3) Digital Arts to model and animate content and 3D characters (Embodied Trainer). (4) Embedded Systems to design and choose the right sensing technology to track user’s performance. (5) Database technologies to manage data generated by the user and the target device/s and store it in a cloud server accessible by a web interface, which will be used by healthcare providers or caregivers to assess users’ progress. (6) Machine learning and predictive analytics to create training patterns and adaptative feedback. (7) Patients’ privacy and data confidentiality that build a secure access protocol that will be integrated in the aforementioned framework.

Prerequisites: This project is highly interdisciplinary; we are looking for students with interests in several fields; Sociology, Psychology, Orthopaedics, Informatics and Computer Sciences, Arts and Engineering, who care about state-of-art health technologies to improve the population’s wellness and quality of life. Innovative thinkers with relevant experience are encouraged to apply. Hands on experiences in 2D/3D modeling and animation tools (3Ds Max, Iclone, Maya, Poser) and graphic design (Photoshop, Illustrator) are preferred for students majoring in Art. Java, C++, C#, Unity3D, ActionScript, Swift and Objective C programming experience is preferred for Engineering and ICS students.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Gago-Masague S., Chen T. & Li G.P. (2017). Promoting Physical Exercise Through Embodied Trainers: A Systematic Literature Review. The Digitalization of Healthcare: new challenges and opportunities. Palgrave MacMillan, Springer International.:
   Brown, Marybeth, David R. Sinacore, Ali A. Ehsani, Ellen F. Binder, John O. Holloszy, and Wendy M. Kohrt. 2000. “Low-Intensity Exercise as a Modifier of Physical Frailty in Older Adults.” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 81 (7): 960–65. doi:10.1053/apmr.2000.4425.:
   Babu, S, Catherine Zanbaka, J Jackson, and TO Chung. 2005. “Virtual Human Physiotherapist Framework for Personalized Training and Rehabilitation.” Graphics Interface, 2.:
   Buttussi, Fabio, and Luca Chittaro. 2008. “MOPET: A Context-Aware and User-Adaptive Wearable System for Fitness Training.” Artificial Intelligence in Medicine 42 (2): 153–63. doi:10.1016/j.artmed.2007.11.004.:
   Dancu, A, A C M Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction, and I T University of Copenhagen. 2012. “Motor Learning in a Mixed Reality Environment.” 7th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Making Sense Through Design, NordiCHI 2012, 811–12. doi:10.1145/2399016.2399160.:
   Dawe, D, and R Moore-Orr. 1995. “Low-Intensity, Range-of-Motion Exercise: Invaluable Nursing Care for Elderly Patients.” Journal of Advanced NUrsing 21 (4): 675–81. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.1995.21040675.x.:
   Eike Dehling, Dennis Reidsma, Job Zwiers, Herwin Welbergen. 2011. “The Reactive Virtual Trainer.” University of Twente.:
   Fasola, Juan, and M Mataric. 2011. “Comparing Physical and Virtual Embodiment in a Socially Assistive Robot Exercise Coach for the Elderly.” Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems.
   Jung, Hee-Tae, Jennifer Baird, Yu-Kyong Choe, and Roderic A. Grupen. 2011. “Upper-Limb Exercises for Stroke Patients through the Direct Engagement of an Embodied Agent.” Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction - HRI ’11, March.:
   Matthews, Judith T., Gustavo J. M. Almeida, Elizabeth A. Schlenk, Reid Simmons, Portia Taylor, and Renato Ramos Da Silva. 2012. “Usability of a Virtual Coach System for Therapeutic Exercise for Osteoarthritis of the Knee.” IROS 2012 Workshop on Motivational Aspects of Robotics in Physical Therapy, October.:
   Reidsma, D, E Dehling, and H Welbergen. 2011. “Leading and Following with a Virtual Trainer.” 4th International Workshop on Whole Body Interaction in Games and Entertainment, 4.\n
   Gago S, Fortier M, Martinez A. PainBuddy – Using Virtual Characters to Improve Home-Based Therapy for Children Suffering from Cancer. In: Medicine 2.0 Conference. JMIR Publications Inc., Toronto, Canada; 2014. Accessed April 17, 2015.

 Project #10:  Retina-On-a-Chip: Micro Bioreactor to Study Organoids in Culture
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor William C. TangBiomedical Engineering

Professor Andrew BrowneOphthalmology

Description:  Given the right conditions, tissues and cells grown in a specialized petri dish (micro bioreactor) can self-organize into a biological structure that mimic organs which develop naturally in living animals. These structures, called organoids, serve as powerful tools to study the function of the natural organs which they represent. By creating organoids in a micro bioreactor, a well-controlled environment and specialized tests provide biological and clinical insights that would be extremely difficult or even impossible to attain from the natural organs.

The goal of this project is to design and create a micro bioreactor that provides the controlled environment for culturing an already-created organoid with the capabilities to suspend the organoid in media, provide measured chemical, mechanical, and optical stimuli, and allow monitoring and measuring the organoid’s physiological responses. The first demonstration will be with a retinal organoid, with specific needs for diffusion-based media exchange to keep the organoid alive for several months. The retina is the lights sensitive tissue responsible for vision. One might call this project a Retina-On-a-Chip.

Students’ Involvement: (1) Understand fundamental sciences to gain skills in engineering and biology: microfluidics, soft-lithography, micro-imaging, tissue culture, organoid biology, and retina physiology. (2) Brainstorm and develop several possible designs of the micro bioreactor based on the design criteria provided by the mentors. (3) Prioritize the design requirements of the bioreactor and implement the first-generation prototype. (4) Fabricate, test, and optimize the design. (5) Demonstrate the functionalities with live tissues or retinal organoid.

Expected Outcomes: A set of design optimizations for the bioreactor prototype, fabricated first-generation prototype, functional demonstration with live tissues or retinal organoid.

Prerequisites: Required: Strong passion for applying engineering skills for biomedical applications. The team collectively should have background knowledge and skills in: cell biology, engineering fundamentals, hands-on experience in biology and engineering laboratories, hobbies in building projects (toys, instruments, bicycles, radios, etc.).

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Y.-H. Hsu and W. C. Tang, “Microbioreactor designed for integration with piezoelectric transducers for cellular diagnostics,” Journal of Microfluidics and Nanofluidics, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 459 – 468, 2011.:
   A. W. Browne, et al, “Structural and functional characterization of human stem-cell-derived retinal organoids by live imaging,” Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Vol. 58, No. 9, pp. 3311 – 3318, 2017.:

 Project #11:  Spine-Rad Brachytherapy Bone Cement
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Joyce H. KeyakRadiological Sciences

Professor Mikael NilssonChemical Engineering & Materials Science

Professor Varun SehgalRadiation Oncology

Description:  Spinal metastases are a common manifestation of many cancers such as those originating in the prostate, breast, lung, kidney, and thyroid. Approximately 200,000 people with spinal metastases die each year in the United States. These metastases are painful, reduce bone strength, and can lead to vertebral collapse and serious neurological complications. Conventional treatment of vertebral metastases involves external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) to slow tumor progression and potentially alleviate pain, although EBRT can further weaken bone and lead to vertebral fracture. Vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty (percutaneous injection of bone cement into the vertebral body) can be performed prior to EBRT to restore bone strength and provide immediate marked or complete pain relief in 50% to 85% of cases. Although this approach is an improvement over EBRT alone, a major shortcoming of EBRT remains: EBRT irradiates the spinal cord, limiting the dose that can be delivered to tumors.

To address the limitations of conventional treatments for vertebral body metastases, UCI researchers have developed Spine-Rad™ Brachytherapy Bone Cement which consists of an FDA-approved bone cement that has been mixed with an insoluble radioactive powder, P-32-hydroxyapatite (P-32-HA). Spine-Rad Cement would be delivered percutaneously (through a needle passing through the skin) to the vertebral body to restore bone strength and provide pain relief while simultaneously providing local radiation (brachytherapy) to the tumors. Dosimetry studies have shown that, because P-32 is a beta emitter, a high dose can be delivered to tumors nearby while virtually eliminating radiation to the spinal cord. This single procedure would also be more convenient for patients than multiple EBRT treatment sessions and would cause fewer side effects because radiation would travel only a short distance in the body.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes:

The goal of this MDP project is to design and carry out experiments in preparation for an upcoming sheep study of Spine-Rad Cement. Activities will include: (1) designing and fabricating shielding from P-32 emissions during various procedures; (2) designing and constructing apparatus for experiments; (3) producing small amounts of P-32 using the UC Irvine TRIGA reactor; (4) calibrating devices for measuring P-32 activity; (5) measuring P-32 activity in P-32-HA and in a sample of sheep blood; (6) measuring dose/dose rate from Spine-Rad Cement at various locations in sheep bone; and (7) confirming that P-32-HA is uniformly dispersed within Spine-Rad Cement.

A student working on this project would have the opportunity to be involved in a range of activities related to radiation therapy. The student would gain an understanding of how radioisotopes are produced, how to safely handle radioactive samples and how to evaluate radiation dose. Furthermore, the student would gain experience in how to prepare sterile samples for treatment. At the end of the program the student is expected to have gained broad insight in the field of radiation therapy and nuclear medicine, including hands on experience, and should be well poised to continue and deepen his or her knowledge in a specific area related to cancer treatment by medical isotopes.

Prerequisites: Students involved in this project are expected to have taken basic chemistry, math and physics courses. Previous lab experience in chemistry labs or similar settings, either from courses or from individual research projects, is beneficial. Preference will be given to students who worked on this project in 2016–2017, but students with strong backgrounds related to this topic will be considered.

 Project #12:  Stress, Emotion, and Energy (SEE) Study
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Shlomit Radom-AizikPediatrics

Professor Sarah D. PressmanPsychology & Social Behavior

Professor Brooke JenkinsPsychology & Social Behavior

Description:  Positive affect (PA; e.g., emotions like happiness and excitement) has been shown to have a wide range of health benefits ranging from improved symptom report to an increased life span (Pressman & Cohen, 2005). However, previous research seldom inquired about how different subcomponents of PA, such as content versus exuberance, result in variable psychophysiological responses. More specifically, fundamental differences between subcomponents of PA lie in the varying levels of arousal—high versus low. For example, high arousal positive affect (HAP) has been associated with increased heart rate activity, while low arousal positive affect (LAP) has been associated with the opposite effect (Pressman & Cohen, 2005; Shiota, Neufeld, Yeung, Moser, & Perea, 2011; Witvliet & Vrana, 1995). A second nuance that previous research has yet to directly address is when HAP and LAP responses are most adaptive given the type of stressor (active versus passive). In this project, we hypothesize that HAP will be most adaptive with active stressors, while LAP will be most adaptive with passive stressors. The main difference that will be examined in this project will be age differences. As has been established in previous literature, older adults show clear preference towards LAP while younger adults value both HAP and LAP (Scheibe, English, Tsai, & Carstensen, 2013). We will examine the role of several biological factors that change with age that may alter preference for our ability to experience HAP. Specifically, we will examine how objective physical fitness, physical health, and a novel set of bioenergetics markers (i.e., mitochondrial function and characteristics) correlate with the experience and preference for HAP and LAP, as well as their potential role in the PA-stress connection.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes: Students involved in this research project will get hands-on experience designing a study and collecting data. They will work with participants and design study protocol. Specific involvement will be: 1. Reviewing the PA and stress literature, 2. Helping set up the study protocol, 3. Contacting participants to be involved in the study, 4. Collecting data from participants in the study, 5. Organizing and analyzing data, and 6. Presenting data. Students will learn the following specific skills: 1. How to collaborate in a research setting, 2. How to design a study to test research hypotheses, 3. How to collect data, and 4. How to analyze and present empirical findings.

Graduate Student Mentor: Marie Cross (UCI Department of Psychology and Social Behavior)

Prerequisites: Undergraduate and graduate students interested in participating must apply to become part of the UCI Stress, Emotion, and Physical Health Lab. Eligibility is a 3.00 GPA and a commitment of 10 hours per week.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Chida, Y. & Steptoe, A. (2008). Positive psychological well-being and mortality: A quantitative review of prospective observational studies. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 741-756. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31818105ba:
   Pressman, S.D. & Cohen, S. (2012). Positive emotion word use and longevity in famous deceased psychologists. Health Psychology, 31, 297-305. doi: 10.1037/a0025339:
   Pressman, S. D., & Cohen, S. (2005). Does positive affect influence health?. Psychological bulletin, 131(6), 925.:

 Project #13:  Supporting Social Media Data Analytics using Texera
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Chen LiComputer Science

Professor Suellen HopferProgram in Public Health

Description:  Currently, a huge amount of information is stored as text. Popular applications, such as Twitter, are generating a huge amount of text data every day. Analyzing this information is crucial to many researchers to gain valuable insights and make good decisions. Yet, most existing text-centric systems require a significant amount of programming knowledge and effort to operate. Non-IT experts who desire to conduct deep analysis struggle in using these solutions.

To solve this problem, Prof. Li’s team has been developing Texera, an open-source text-analytics system. Its graphical user interface allows analysts to easily manipulate text data without any programming effort. Our vision is to free these users from low-level computation so that they can focus on their main domain analysis. In the project, it is also critical to enable user experiences for both IT and non-IT experts through constant polishing of the interface. The Texera system is currently used by several researchers at UCI, including the team of Prof. Suellen Hopfer at Public Health to conduct tweet analysis related to climate change. The goal of this project is to continue improving the interface of this system.

Student’s Involvement and Expected Outcomes: The student will work closely with the existing Texera team to assist in improving the user interface including its usability and functionalities. The student will also interact with the existing users of Texera, especially the team of Prof. Hopfer, to collect their feedback for further improvements. Since Texera is open-source and follows a rigorous software engineering practice, the student will have an excellent opportunity to gain experience in software development. Also, the student will have the chance to learn and improve their skills in various technologies such as Git, Java, JavaScript, and Angular2, which can be valuable for student’s future career. The expected outcome will be a more powerful user-interface for the Texera system.

Prerequisites: Candidates should have experiences in Web frontend development and are familiar with HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, and Angular2. More importantly, they should be highly motivated, responsible, and can think critically.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Texera project homepage:

 Project #14:  Understanding the Experiences of English Language Learners in Higher Education
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Judith H. SandholtzEducation

Professor Brian SatoMolecular Biology & Biochemistry

Professor Julio R. TorresSpanish & Portuguese

Mr. Christopher StillwellEducation

Description:  As the enrollment of international students and language minority learners increases at colleges and universities throughout the U.S., issues arise regarding ways of meeting the unique needs of this population as they attend classes and face the challenge of understanding complex content via an additional language. Sadly, the literature on this population is notoriously thin (Harklau, 2000). Research is necessary to determine the needs of this population, the personal habits and behaviors that contribute to their success, and the instructional approaches that are most effective.

Undergraduate researchers are uniquely positioned to access the experience of these ELLs attending classes at UCI, given these researchers’ own understanding of the challenges of higher education and also given their status as peers to the population of interest. To learn the best ways to leverage their relevant experience, and to develop their qualitative research skills, participants in this MDP project act as both researchers and as study participants. Through weekly readings, lab meetings, and practical assignments, participants learn the essentials of qualitative research techniques in multiple phases.

In the first year of this MDP project (the 2016–2017 school year), participants explored the use of self-reflective techniques such as journaling, research memos and auto-ethnography to reflect upon their own experiences as students in large lecture courses. They also developed skills at gathering data from others through such means as observations, interviews, and focus groups. Participants designed and trialed interview protocols, and they conducted practice interviews on one another. Participants then drew on this experience to conduct actual field research, observing large lecture courses and conducting interviews and focus groups with students of the courses, with a special emphasis on accessing the perspectives of ELLs. The participants then undertook a typological analysis of the interview data and shared preliminary findings.

In the proposed second year of this MDP project, participants will contribute to the existing data set through additional journaling, training, observing, and interviewing. They will then undergo more advanced instruction in qualitative data analysis, through which they will collaborate on a journal article related to their findings from juxtaposing these interview data with their own self-reflective accounts of their experiences as ELLs in higher education.

Throughout the project, participants will benefit from the guidance and expertise of the senior research team, drawing on the doctoral student researcher’s extensive background in language education and research, and the faculty co-mentors’ backgrounds in higher education research, second language acquisition research, and STEM education research.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes: Student participants will collaborate on the design of a research plan that leverages the participants’ unique status as students to help them access ELL students’ perspectives on the challenges they face in learning content through a foreign language. As peers and perhaps as language learners themselves, the student participants may have a great deal of relevant experience to draw upon in attempting to understand the conditions ELLs face. As a result, they may make better interviewers and focus group leaders for the ELL students than other kinds of researchers may be. The intended outcomes of the project are for the students to produce auto-ethnographies of their own experiences as undergraduate students, along with accounts of the experiences of students drawn from UCI STEM classes, all for the purpose of providing a rich account of the diversity of experiences students undergo in large lectures. Student participants will gain advanced experience at coding and interpreting qualitative data, and they will also have various opportunities to share their findings with campus stakeholders.

Prerequisites: Students with background, experience, and/or interest in education, language learning, and/or qualitative research will find this project a comfortable fit. The capacity to speak Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, or another language other than English is also a significant plus.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Fowler Jr, F. J., & Cosenza, C. (2009). Design and evaluation of survey questions. The SAGE handbook of applied social research methods, 375-412.:
   Harklau, L. (2000). From the “good kids” to the “worst”: Representations of English language learners across educational settings. TESOL Quarterly, 34 (1), 35–67.:
   Hatch, J. A. (2002). Doing qualitative research in education settings. Suny Press.:
   Kanno, Y. & Harklau, L. (Eds.) (2012). Linguistic minority students go to college: Preparation, access, and persistence. New York: Routledge.:
   Leki, I. (2007). Undergraduates in a second language: Challenges and complexities of academic literacy development. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.:
   Maxwell, J. A. (2012). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Sage.:
   Núñez, A. M., Rios-Aguilar, C., Kanno, Y., & Flores, S. M. (2016). English learners and their transition to postsecondary education. In Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (pp. 41-90). Springer International Publishing.:
   Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.:
   Reid, J. M. (1997). Which non-native speaker? Differences between international students and U.S. resident (language minority) students. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 70, 17–27.:
   Saldaña, J. (2015). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Sage.:
   Zamel, V., & Spack, R. (Eds.). (2004). Crossing the curriculum: Multilingual learners in college classrooms. Routledge.:

 Project #15:  Urban Ecology and Health: Development of a Novel Approach for Investigating the Link between Atmospheric Particle Composition and Toxicity
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Celia FaiolaEcology & Evolutionary Biology

Professor Michael T. KleinmanCommunity & Environmental Medicine

Description:  Atmospheric particles are linked to respiratory and cardiac illnesses and higher mortality rates. Most particles in the atmosphere are composed of organic material containing a complex mixture of many compounds. The organic material in the particles has been associated with some of the observed health effects, but very little is known about the contributions to particle toxicity from the individual types of organic molecules. This laboratory study will compare toxicity of different model organic particles representing different compositions. A major objective of this project is to develop an innovative approach that will unite established techniques in particle generation studies (PI: Faiola) with particle toxicity assessments (PI: Kleinman). With this new laboratory setup, model particles can be generated for toxicity testing while systematically modifying particle composition to simulate a variety of particle sources in different atmospheric conditions. This approach will fill major gaps preventing predictive understanding of links between particle composition and toxicity.

Most atmospheric nanoparticles are formed from gas-phase organic vapors that oxidize in the atmosphere to form condensable products. These organic particles suspended in the atmosphere are referred to as secondary organic aerosol (SOA). The precursor vapors that contribute to SOA production globally are emitted from natural and human sources. In urban areas, it is often assumed that the largest contributor to volatile emissions is from human combustion sources. However, often overlooked plant volatiles from urban green spaces can also contribute substantially to the urban emission inventory, and this source is likely to increase with additional urban greening programs. Little is known about how these two sources will interact in a local polluted urban atmosphere to influence particle composition and toxicity. To address this gap, we propose to develop infrastructure that mates a particle generation flow reactor system (owned by Prof. Faiola) with particle exposure chambers (owned by Prof. Kleinman), and generate preliminary data representing three types of model SOA: forest, combustion, and a mixture of the two. Particle toxicity will be assessed using exposures to mammalian lung cells. We aim to demonstrate the utility of this novel approach for characterizing particle toxicity while being able to systematically vary particle composition. This laboratory approach can be used to improve understanding of the relationship between particle toxicity and composition.

Student’s Involvement and Expected Outcomes: The undergraduate researcher will be responsible for operating the flow reactor system to generate different types of model particles. The student will be trained to use the reactor by a project specialist in the Faiola lab. The student will generate three different types of SOA representing forest SOA, combustion SOA, and mixed SOA. The mixed SOA will be a combination of the forest and combustion SOA. The physico-chemical properties of the particles will be characterized by a project specialist in the Faiola lab. The student will work with researchers in the Kleinman lab to perform the ex-vivo macrophage exposures using an air-tight custom-built aerosol exposure chamber located in the Kleinman lab facility. The student will learn procedures to assess the cells using two approaches: 1) cells will be assessed for viability using a standard cytotoxicity assay system, and 2) cells will be assessed for superoxide production capacity by luminometry. The undergraduate researcher on this project will learn technical skills related to particle generation systems including skills using mass flow controllers and setting up air-tight connections with Swagelok tube fittings, and data acquisition. The undergraduate researcher will also learn technical skills associated with cell toxicity assays and data analysis. Furthermore, the student will attend regular meetings including all study participants which will help the student gain a broader understanding of how their research relates to the overall objectives of both laboratory groups. This experience will help develop skills in collaborative, interdisciplinary research.

Prerequisites: Open to undergraduate students pursuing a degree in the Biological Sciences.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Decesari S et al. (2017) Enhanced toxicity of aerosol in fog conditions in the Po Valley, Italy. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 17, 7721-7731:
   Mesquita S R et al. (2017) Toxic potential of organic constituents of submicron particulate matter (PM1) in an urban road site (Barcelona). Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 15406-15415:
   Mirowsky J E et al. (2015) In vitro and in vivo toxicity of urban and rural particulate matter from California. Atmospheric Environment 103, 256-262:

 Project #16:  Using Sensor Technology to Understand Water Quality and Estuarine-Ocean Exchange in Newport Bay Estuary, California
Faculty Mentors:  
Professor Kristen A. DavisCivil & Environmental Engineering

Professor Adam C. MartinyEarth System Science

Professor Matthew BrackenEcology & Evolutionary Biology

Description:  The goal of this project is to collect the data necessary to estimate fluxes of materials (e.g., water, nutrients, oxygen) through the Newport Bay estuary, to characterize the coastal flows outside the estuary near coastal marine protected areas, and to support model development. This will be accomplished using four hydrographic moorings measuring currents, temperature, salinity, pressure, oxygen, and pH, placed at locations near the mouth of Newport Bay, near the Pacific Coast Highway Bridge, in the upper Newport Bay, and outside and southeast of Newport Bay near Crystal Cove to capture outflow to the coast and coastal circulation conditions. In addition, we will sample weekly water quality (e.g., nutrients) using a boat.

Moorings will be deployed for two 2-month experiments, one during the “wet” season and another during the “dry” season. These physical and chemical data will be analyzed to quantify water mass, nutrient, and oxygen fluxes on timescales from hours (to resolve tidal fluctuations) to months. Information about the physical circulation within and outside of the estuary will make it possible to pair other chemical and biological measurements to address issues of interest to the City of Newport Beach.

Students’ Involvement and Expected Outcomes: Students will participate in the fieldwork, lab analyses, and data analyses. This work will include setting up the sensors, collecting water samples for nutrient analysis, and conducting data analyses. We expect that students will participate in all aspects of the project.

Prerequisites: Students from a variety of majors are welcome to apply as this is multidisciplinary project spanning the Schools of Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Biological Sciences. Students will have the opportunity to develop laboratory, field or data analysis skills. Please indicate in your application which of these three categories you are most interested/skilled in.

Recommended Web sites and publications: 
   Small Drains, Big Problems: The Impact of Dry Weather Runoff on Shoreline Water Quality at Enclosed Beaches:
   Seasonal and interannual oxygen variability on the Washington and Oregon continental shelves:
   Biogeochemical interactions control a temporal succession in the elemental composition of marine communities: