High school students look for possibilities at GCU



A robot developed in the computational artificial intelligence / machine learning and robotics lab welcomes one of the high school students during the STEM research and development workshop on Saturday at GCU.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
CUU Information Office

Senior biology / pre-medicine Jordyn Oliver and Linnu Shaji (left to right) talk to students about their pediatric brain cancer research in one of the breakout sessions.

Linnu Shaji was not supposed to do pediatric brain cancer research. She wanted to be a nurse.

But then the Grand Canyon University senior took a biology class and that’s it.

“I stopped nursing. I LOVE biology, ”said Shaji, a pre-med major with shining eyes as she spoke about her passion for research at Saturday’s STEM research and development workshop. “I like to understand things.”

Shaji spoke to high school students during one of the many breakout sessions in the workshop on her pediatric brain cancer research, which she is conducting under the direction of the mentor and principal investigator. Dr Madhavi Chakravadhanula.

One of the papers she’s working on focuses on the effects of a plant-based diet and its protective role during pregnancy, particularly on the development of the brain of a developing fetus. Evidence suggests that dietary vitamins and plant pigments during pregnancy may help reduce the risk of childhood cancer.

Shaji has studied certain food compounds, such as anthocyanins and carotenoids found in leafy vegetables.

She said what’s exciting for her is sitting in her classes and seeing the concepts click.

“I’m in biochemistry this semester. I see how these cells are formed and what happens so that the cancer can be reduced. You start to understand why things go against these things, ”she said.

What she didn’t realize when she entered the GCU campus is that she loves connecting the dots.

Now, she plans to take a year off to do research before heading to medical school, where she will study to become an oncologist.

Shaji was just one of the student speakers at the STEM Research and Development Workshop, sponsored by the campus STELLAR research group and hosted alongside partners K12 STEM Outreach and Discover GCU.

About 150 high school students – some who traveled to Phoenix on a Discover GCU trip, others who came to campus because of their research interests – attended Saturday’s session.

“We focus on showing students the unique opportunity they have, first of all, to get involved in research, but also on how to use their skills to get involved in business because, in fact, research is also involved in business. We’re just trying to show that to the students and what sets GCU apart, ”said a second-year mechanical engineering technology student. Nathan Olsen, co-founder of STELLAR.

“The most important thing is to try and give exposure to students who might be interested in research,” said Kacey carvajal, Specialist in program recruitment. “One of the main reasons we are doing this is to help develop opportunities and showcase what GCU has to offer to students who come or are interested in coming to the school here in regards to opportunities. research. … They can get involved in all of this from their first year.

Much of the workshop focused on the University’s research and design program, which provides undergraduate students with research opportunities – opportunities that may not be available to them prior to graduation. higher.

Biology / Pre-med major Jordyn oliver, who co-presented with Shaji at the Pediatric Brain Cancer Research Session, knew she wanted to get into research as soon as she arrived on campus.

“My cousin was doing research. She applied to medical school and she 100% recommended joining an RDP group and seeing what it looks like in the lab and getting your feet wet, ”Oliver said.

“It’s really good here at GCU because they give you the flexibility to choose what you want to do. There are so many research projects available to undertake. It’s really good that you can choose what really interests you. I recommend it to everyone.”

Software Engineering Program Manager Jevon Jackson introduces students to the research and design program group he leads, which involves machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Jevon jackson, head of the software engineering program at the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, also presented the research possibilities in the breakout sessions, which also included anatomy and dissection, microbial biology, Antimicrobial Discovery Lab and Biomedical Engineering and the work at LaBelle Labs to help entrepreneurs design and prototype medical products.

“You have all the power” to decide what to look for, said Jackson, who is the principal investigator with the head of technology programs. Rob loy of the Computational Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning and Robotics Laboratory.

Students in the lab spend four hours a week outside of class learning the different “flavors” of machine learning and working on projects.

“We solve complex problems to bring machines to life with your code. This is what it is about, ”Jackson said before the students demonstrated some of the robots they programmed, one that looks a bit like a praying mantis and high footsteps, prances and dances.

He explained how students coded – and deployed solutions – on everything from AWS Deep Racer vehicles to robots and cars and talked about facial recognition and more.

“You can be any major to be a part of this program,” Jackson said. “As long as you have the passion and the ability to want to learn, you can come in and participate. “

In addition to joining RDP or getting into medical device development at LaBelle Labs, students can also develop their own groups, as STELLAR has done. The student-formed club serves as a platform for students to design, test, build and launch projects to the International Space Station. Students at the club research with a missionary vision. Ultimately, they want to help people around the world.

The group is preparing to send a microbial fuel cell it developed to the International Space Station in 2022.

“One of the big goals of this event is to generate enthusiasm among students for research and for the kind of research development that can be done as university students. which is possible, ”said a young government official Madeline Landes, student at Honors College and director of outreach for the STELLAR group. “I think it’s cool that STELLAR is a completely student-run program and club. So another big takeaway is that students are excited to do this kind of research from high school through college because that’s definitely what our club members have done.

Students in the workshop also heard about the business side of research. Robert Vera, director of GCU’s Canyon Ventures Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, spoke about what research can do for the economy. And students have learned to protect their research, business plans and intellectual property.

For Shaji, research epitomizes what she loved about her college journey and what awaits her as she takes the next steps in her career.

“For me, I love it,” she said of the research. ” I like to learn. “

GCU Senior Editor Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


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