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Summer is a great time to get involved in research at OU!  Oakland University students are spending their summer 2014 seeking answers to a variety of real world problems. Read about their research below and learn more on the Office of Research Administration website

Product Lifecycle Management with DTE

Ozge Civit
Graduate Student
School of Engineering and Computer Science

Ozge Civit is a master’s student and teaching assistant in the Industrial Systems and Engineering Department (ISE) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) enthusiast.

PLM technology is used by companies worldwide to approach innovative solutions and product development. Civit is working on a research project with DTE this summer to apply concepts of PLM to analyze the company’s processes in order to maintain their facilities and improve business. Her endeavors are assisted by Professor Robert Van Til and fellow ISE student Atul Khiste.

“I believe this project will help me to apply my theoretical knowledge into real world application and improve my skill sets for my future career," Civit said.

How eyes respond to light, seeking answers to an incurable disease

Cameron Atkinson
Graduate Student
Eye Research Institute 

Ph.D. candidate in biological and biomedical sciences, Cameron Atkinson, works diligently with the Eye Research Institute (ERI) exploring retinal diseases.

Atkinson will spend her summer in an ERI lab studying how light regulates dopamine release from dopaminergic amacrine (DA) neurons in the retina. She records the neurons' electrical activity in response to light stimuli and is currently characterizing a new signaling pathway from melanopsin ganglion cells (mGCs) to DA neurons.

“I am using pharmacology and electrophysiology to uncover the mechanism of glutamate release from mGCs, which in turn excites the DA neurons, eliciting a ‘light response,’” Atkinson said.

Atkinson works closely on this research with Dr. Dao-Qi Zhang, assistant professor of biomedical sciences. In May, she will be joined by Nathan Spix, a student in the Summer Undergraduate Program in Eye Research (SUPER). Spix will conduct research on various projects in the ERI lab, receiving basic electrophysiology training.

Atkinson’s research will provide insight into the incurable human disease, retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which causes visual defects and sometimes even complete blindness. Learning how DA neurons are affected by RP can provide useful information for therapeutic strategies to preserve vision in those affected. The mGCs she is studying are preserved in RP; learning how mGCs communicate with DA neurons will be important for designing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as RP and will also provide the first evidence of mGCs transmitting signals to other retinal neurons.

“The importance of doing research is to continually contribute to the collective knowledge,” Atkinson said. “We are constantly building on each other's discoveries, truly ‘standing on the shoulders of giants.’ "Being a researcher is like being on a very large team, all working for the common good.”

How math is taught and learned

Erika Sorensen
School of Education and Human Services

Student research assistant, Erika Sorensen, works with Dr. Paul J. Weinberg, assistant professor of mathematics education in the department of teacher development and educational studies, on the practices of teacher training programs.

The emphasis of Sorensen’s work is on mathematics and how it is taught and learned in K-12 mathematics courses, undergraduate mathematics courses and teacher education courses. “This work is done with an eye towards opportunities, across these various settings, to develop mathematical inquiry,” Sorensen said. “We are investigating the thinking and observing the practices of students, teachers, lay adults and disciplinary professionals about these topics.” 

The undergraduate’s exploration involves conducting interviews with students and teachers at a local high school as well as undergraduates in elementary education and faculty members at a local university.  The participants are asked to respond to interview questions while working on mathematical problems. In addition, she is analyzing two participants, an elementary education major and a high school mathematics teacher, in order to understand their development of content and pedagogical content knowledge within their professional practice.

With the hopes of implementing an inquiry-based teaching environment in classrooms, Sorensen’s research will help students gain deeper conceptual understandings of content by asking questions, investigating the content related to their questions, drawing conclusions and posing new questions. “When students have opportunities to ask their own questions and conduct their own investigations, facilitated and carefully designed by cooperating teachers and the research team, they will have better understandings of the content,” she said.

Redesigning the triage portion of an emergency center

John Katona
School of Engineering and Computer Science

John Katona is conducting research this summer for his M.S. thesis, using discrete event simulation (DES) to assist in decision-making on a Lean process improvement initiative at Troy Beaumont Hospital. 

The focus of the Lean initiative is to redesign the work in the triage portion of the emergency center (EC) to reduce the time until physicians see their patients. DES was used to evaluate each proposed future system state and to determine limits for each process time to ensure no more than three patients were ever waiting to be evaluated.

“The new processes were implemented on March 5, 2014, and the simulation models were validated,” Katona said. “The simulation predicted a 53 percent reduction in triage processing time.”  The simulations will be used to support process improvement in healthcare.