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Student research opportunities

New opportunities for undergraduate research at SFIS

SFIS launched an Undergraduate Research Fellows program in Fall 2017, designed to give undergraduate students a chance to engage in research projects on science & society topics, working closely with SFIS faculty mentors.

Engaging in research projects as an undergraduate is a great way to broaden your ASU experience. You’ll get the chance to develop critical skills in how to gather reliable data, how to analyze this information, and how to present your findings to others in a clear and compelling way. These skills can prove very useful in the workplace. Research experience can also help you decide whether you’re interested in graduate school – and, if you are, it can significantly increase your chances of getting accepted.

Students participating in the SFIS undergraduate research program can apply to receive a stipend ($1,200 per semester) or to receive research credit (2 credits per semester). You will be expected to spend 5-7 hours per week as a Research Fellow, including attending a weekly meeting with your faculty mentor and a series of Masterclasses on research and professional development (online Masterclass options will be available). You will also be expected to present your research at an end-of-semester symposium. Subject to student interest and faculty approval, students may participate in this program over multiple semesters.

Applications for the Fall 2021 research program will be open from July 27, with a closing date of Monday, August 9 at 11:59 pm. Fall research projects will ideally start the week of August 23, 2021. If you would like to apply for a research position, please complete the online application.

For questions, please contact Elisha Thompson ([email protected]).


Faculty advisorProject titleAvailable for stipendAvailable for creditPre-requisites required
Robert Cook-DeeganEthical, legal and social issues in the Human Pangenome ProjectYesYesYes
Robert Cook-DeeganBRAINshare: Sharing data in BRAIN Initiative studiesYes YesYes
Nalini ChhetriGrassroots innovations: Its value to science and societyNoYesNone
Emma FrowGames for exploring synthetic biology prototyping a board gameYesYesYes
Emma Frow and Elisha ThompsonTaking stock of the SFIS Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) programYes YesYes
Emma FrowThe possibilities and limits of biological containment in the age of synthetic biologyYesYesYes
Clark Miller and Wellington ReiterAmerica in Transition – How are the challenges of decarbonizing energy systems being imagined and tackled in communities across the country?YesYesNone
Mary Jane ParmentierTechnology for the developing world: Responsible innovation and factors for successNoYesNone
Heather RossWhat if public safety data reflect the complexity of real life? YesYesYes

Full project descriptions

Faculty advisor

Robert Cook-Deegan, Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Research project overview

The Human Pangenome Reference Consortium is building a reference sequence of the human genome that is more complete, more accurate and captures the common DNA variations among people. ASU is part of a multi-campus effort to address the considerable ethical, legal and social issues that will be encountered. For example, what does it mean to include diversity?  How can populations that have generally been excluded from genomic research being included, and how can that be done while avoiding “helicopter science” that merely uses their data and samples, and actually acknowledges their contribution, honors sovereignty of indigenous peoples, and shares benefits of research? How can this research avoid misuse of genomic data? Students will help prepare an inventory of large-scale genomic projects around the globe, and assist a team from ASU (including Kara Hapke and Janis Geary), and researchers from the University of California campuses in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and Davis.

Any pre-requisites needed? Ideal candidates would have some background in genomics and anthropology, and some interest in law, social science, and ethics. Research Fellows would ideally work on this project for the full academic year (Fall and Spring).

Research available for stipend? ($1,200/semester): Yes

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes

2. BRAINshare: Sharing data in BRAIN Initiative studies

Faculty advisor

Robert Cook-Deegan, Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Research project overview

This project will create an inventory of projects running through the BRAIN Initiative (https://braininitiative.nih.gov/), focusing on what data they produce, and how data are shared and managed. For comparison, we will also do case studies of how neuroscience projects are managed outside the BRAIN Initiative. This is part of a 4-year grant from the US BRAIN Initiative, in collaboration with a team of neurosurgeons, legal scholars and bioethicists at Baylor College of Medicine. The student(s) will be supervised by Prof. Robert Cook-Deegan, Kara Hapke (of ASU), and Kathryn Maxson Jones, a postdoc from Baylor College of Medicine. One goal is to prepare a report, with an eye to turning it into a publication that would have the student as lead author. The sources of the data are BRAIN Initiative researchers all over the USA, most of whom do deep brain stimulation or generate data from neurosurgical procedures, brain and spinal cord imaging, genomics or other data-intensive studies.

Any pre-requisites needed? Ideal candidates would have some background in neuroscience, computer science, bioinformatics or a related field, to help understand the technical details of the data being collected. They would also be interested in working on the project for at least the full academic year.

Research available for stipend? ($1,200/semester): Yes

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes

3. Grassroots innovations: Its value to science and society

Faculty advisor

Nalini Chhetri, Clinical Associate Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Research project overview

Innovations are examples of human adaptations – whether they be innovations in technologies, in management, in governance, and/or systems. A large part of our current focus is on modern innovations that are top-down and led by large companies and agencies. But incredible creativity occurs at the grassroots and goes unsung, or even unheard. Grassroots innovations are complex, and in many cases, resilient and transformative examples of human creativity. We have overlooked and even ignored them to our peril. This project will ask student(s) to 1) explore and identify through case studies, examples of grassroots innovation in technological improvement, governance and in complex systems around the world, and 2) conduct in-depth literature analysis to understand the value they bring (or can potentially bring) to current scientific knowledge, and the potential they may have for the well-being of our society.

Any pre-requisites needed? None.

Research available for stipend? ($1,200/semester): No

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes

4. Games for exploring synthetic biology: Prototyping a board game

Faculty advisor

Emma Frow, Assistant Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society & School of Biological & Health Systems Engineering

Research project overview

As part of a project funded by the National Science Foundation, we have been developing a series of games and outreach activities about synthetic biology, an area of biotechnology receiving a lot of interest and funding lately. One of these activities is a resource-based board game (inspired by Settlers of Catan) focused on using synthetic biology to build space colonies on Mars. We have the basic structure and rules laid out, and are looking for a talented undergraduate researcher to help us build (and ideally test) a formal prototype. This will involve research to familiarize yourself with the visual world of synthetic biology, and using this as inspiration to design and produce the game tiles, cards, pieces, and instruction booklet using graphic design and CAD software. With this prototype we will move into more formal testing of the game, first within the project team and then with broader audiences.

Any pre-requisites needed? Ideal applicants will (1) be comfortable working with graphic design software, CAD software and 3D-printing, and (2) have a broad interest in biotechnology and synthetic biology.

Research available for stipend? ($1,200/semester): Yes

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes

5. Taking stock of the SFIS Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program

Mentors

Emma Frow, Assistant Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society & School of Biological & Health Systems Engineering

Elisha Thompson, Academic Success Advising Coordinator, College of Global Futures

Research project overview

The SFIS Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program has been running since 2017, and it’s time to take stock! This project aims to document the achievements and outcomes of the SURF program so far, and to suggest possible modifications going forward. We are looking for a researcher interested in helping us to evaluate the program. This will involve: (1) compiling data relating to SURF participants to date, (2) identifying appropriate metrics for evaluating the program, (3) designing and conducting surveys and interviews with current SURF participants and program alumni (researchers and mentors), and (4) preparing a report with findings and recommendations. The researcher will ideally participate in this project over 2 semesters.

Any pre-requisites needed? Some familiarity with Excel is desirable. CITI training for research involving human subjects will be needed, but can be completed at the start of the project.

Research available for stipend? ($1,200/semester): Yes

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes

6. The possibilities and limits of biological containment in the age of synthetic biology

Faculty mentor

Emma Frow, Assistant Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society & School of Biological & Health Systems Engineering

Research project overview

Since the early days of recombinant DNA research in the 1970s, scientists have worked on approaches for keeping genetically modified organisms “contained” – with intentions of keeping researchers safe and preventing genetically modified organisms from surviving and spreading in the environment in unintended ways. As part of a new project funded by the National Science Foundation, we are researching the history of containment strategies with the aim of understanding how ideas of containment might (or might not) apply as cutting-edge synthetic biology technologies develop. We are looking for SURF Fellows to assist with building a database of containment strategies used by researchers working with genetically modified organisms. This will involve conducting reviews of scientific literature, reading technical papers to extract information relating to containment strategies and efficacy, and helping the project team to determine useful ways of cataloguing this information. This database will provide a jumping-off point for our studies of the possibilities and limitations of containment in the age of synthetic biology.

Any pre-requisites needed? Applicants should have taken university-level courses in molecular biology or related fields, and be comfortable reading and analyzing scientific papers.

Research available for stipend? ($1,200/semester): Yes

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes

7. America in Transition – How are the challenges of decarbonizing energy systems being imagined and tackled in communities across the country?

Faculty mentors

Clark Miller, Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Wellington Reiter, special advisor to President Crow

Research project overview

America in Transition is a new ASU course under development that will look at the major technological systems that have shaped American history and culture—oil, coal, automobiles, electricity, trucking—and the challenge we now face to transition those systems to carbon neutrality to help create a sustainable future. The course will examine a transect of American geography—the I-10 corridor, from Los Angeles to Houston to New Orleans to Tallahassee—to understand how these infrastructures and systems have developed, what they mean for people’s lives and livelihoods, how the transition is being experienced in different industries and communities, and how we can both accelerate the transition to a clean energy future and ensure that it is also a just transition. As a SURF Fellow, you will be building foundational knowledge in preparation for teaching this course. This will involve conducting research on what kinds of systems and infrastructures have been built in the I-10 corridor to provide energy and energy services, what kinds of transformations of those systems are being envisioned, and how those transformations are and will in the future impact the people who live and work in the region. Most of the research will focus on collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing a variety of textual and visual materials that document the history and contemporary development of energy infrastructures and systems, and what those have been and continue to mean for people in different communities. This will help build a resource and framework to guide the overarching narrative of the course and its modules (https://universitycityexchange.asu.edu/content/10-across).

Any pre-requisites needed? None. The ideal candidate is a self-directed researcher who is excited by the project and can take the project goals, identify relevant systems and communities, and then quickly collect and synthesize relevant materials.

Research available for stipend? ($1,200/semester): Yes

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes

8. Technology for the developing world: Responsible innovation and factors for success

Faculty advisor

Mary Jane Parmentier, Clinical Associate Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Research project overview

What happens when new technologies are introduced into developing regions? With technological interventions at the center of many national and multinational development projects around the world, it is assumed that it is a critical tool for enhancing quality of life. Yet it is well known that many technological projects fail, from large infrastructure to small-scale initiatives. However, there is a lack of organized data on how many projects fail, what makes them fail, and what contributes to success. This research project is going into its third year and based on the excellent work done by the undergraduate research team, we have identified a set of factors that help explain when and how development projects that implement technology can succeed. These factors are social, political, economic, and cultural, not technological! This year we will work to organize these factors, using a framework for responsible innovation, and analyze projects in energy, water, transportation, education, health and other sectors.  We look forward to welcoming new members to the team!

Any pre-requisites needed? None.

Research available for stipend? ($1200/semester): No

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes

9. What if public safety data reflected the complexity of real life?

Faculty mentor

Heather Ross, Clinical Assistant Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society & Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Research project overview

In the world of public safety, it is commonly acknowledged that mental health/illness contributes to one quarter or more calls for service. However, public safety data reflect a much smaller percentage of calls related to mental health. One of the drivers behind this data-experience mismatch is the data system in current use, which assigns a single descriptive code to each public safety encounter, obscuring multiple other codes that describe contributing factors to the encounter. In this project, we will review a selection of real-world police data to describe and visualize the differences between the current system of single codes and what a future system that accommodated multiple codes would look like. This work has real-world implications for planning public safety responses in an urban environment and advocating for data technology advances in the complex sociotechnical system of public safety.

Any pre-requisites needed?? No formal prior experience is required. Familiarity with public safety systems, database systems, and/or mapping software is a plus. Students may be required to complete a background check. Students may be asked to participate in a public safety observation (e.g. ride-along).

Research available for stipend? ($1,200/semester): Yes

Research available for course credit? (2 credits/semester): Yes

Research opportunity available to ASU Online students? Yes